We love our salmon. It’s nutritious, mild-tasting and versatile. It’s also easy to cook due to its fatty texture which helps to keep the fish tender and moist. But even though salmon is so great, buying it can be quite intimidating. What should the fish look like? Why are there so many varieties? What’s the difference between farmed and wild caught? What’s up with all the smell – Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
So, how do you buy salmon at a grocery store?
Here are a few tips from Keith Harris, a buyer for Whole Foods Market with over 30 years of experience in the commercial fishing industry:
Use Your Senses – Literally!
First and foremost, you shouldn’t be able to smell much of anything, especially the fish! Instead, you should look for a pleasant ocean smell. Moisture content is also a great indicator for fish freshness, so make sure the fish looks nice and moist rather than dried out.
Look for a vibrant salmon color. Avoid salmon that has any signs of brown spots, whether on the edges, the skin or even the belly. Instead, look for the deep shades of red to vibrant coral to bright pink. Pale fish is the enemy!
Fresh isn’t always best
Don’t assume that fresh is always better than frozen fish. The advancements in vaccum-packing technology has boosted the quality of frozen fish so don’t be afraid of the frozen stuff if you trust the source.
Don’t automatically fear farmed salmon
There is a lot of questionable fish farming happening around the world. But when produced under the right conditions and by using responsible farming techniques, then farmed salmon can be a low-cost, sustainably sourced alternative to wild-caught salmon. So when in doubt ask the grocery store for their aquaculture guidelines and regulations. Or, use an IPhone App or similar, that can provide detailed information about the best choices in-order to make an informed decision.
Know your salmon varieties
There are various varieties of salmon that are commercially available – let’s take a look:
King: Although this fish has a high price tag, with it comes a rich, buttery flavor. Think of King as the Cadillac of salmon.
Sockeye: These fish are from extremely cold glacial waters. You can expect the flesh to have a deep, red color with a light gray skin.
Coho: They’re widely available and freeze well.
Pink: Very mild in flavor and very fragile. Pink is at optimal quality the day it’s caught. As a results you’ll typically find Pink salmon sold in cans – which are delicious in salmon cakes.
Chum: Chum salmon are lower in fat, making them great candidates for smoking. If you happen to come across Chum, you should jump at the chance to buy them, as they’re meatier and great for smoked preparations.