Salmon refers to the several species of ray-finned fish that belong in the Salmonidae family. It is the relative of whitefish, grayling, char, and trout. The discovery of this fine fish dates back to the Neogene period. And although they are native to North Atlanta and the Pacific Ocean, some have introduced them in the Great Lakes of North America and Patagonia.
As a food, salmon is classified as an oily fish. Thus, it is rich in omega-3 and protein. Its flesh is noted for its bright orange to deep red color, which is factored by the concentration of carotenoid pigments. But rare, wild salmons can also show white flesh at times. Nevertheless, this fatty fish can be expensive, especially if it’s wild-caught. But, it provides a distinct flavor no other fish can defy. Its texture is similar to a fatty chicken or pork once it’s prepared. Likewise, it tastes like a mildly flavored meat that came right out of the sea. Its distinctive profile, with a refreshingly subtle taste, makes salmon a popular food and a fish of choice.
- A female salmon is called a hen.
- Salmons have a really strong sense of smell. Atlantic Salmons, for example, can smell a drop of scent 500 meters away.
- As salmons mature and prepare to spawn, they change colors.
- King salmon is the largest salmon variety; it can range up to 1.5 meters or 58 inches in length. On the contrary, pink salmon is the smallest salmon variety; it can be as short as 30 inches.
Salmon Buying Guide
Even though salmon is the most popular fish in the United States, a lot of people still don’t know much about this fish. Thus, here are the common species of salmon that are widely available in the market:
- Chinook / King Salmon – This salmon is the most expensive among all the species. It is also the largest and heaviest among all salmon, as it can reach up to 5 feet long and can weigh over a hundred pounds. In addition, this is the most widespread salmon in North America. They traveled from southern California’s deep Pacific waters to northern Alaska’s ice-cold rivers. The Great Lakes of North America also has it. Nevertheless, you can recognize this species by checking their mouths. Their entire mouth, including their gums, are all black. Hence, where the name “blackmouth salmon” came from. Also, you may check out for small, round spots on their tails and across their backs. This salmon is noted for its high fat (omega-3s) content and buttery texture.
- Coho Salmon – While this salmon is not as big as the first one, they make up for it by fighting twice as hard. They are the toughest and most hard-headed variety among its species. Yet, it has a milder taste and a lighter color. That is why they’re sometimes called “silver salmon.” This species mainly travels from Oregon to Washington, but you can also see them where Chinooks are, including the five Great Lakes. Likewise, you can also recognize this variety by checking their mouths. They also have black mouths but their gums are white. They also have spots across their backs but they only have spots on their tail’s top half.
- Sockeye Salmon – This salmon is the tastiest among all the North American species. It’s an oilier fish with deep red flesh. That’s why they’re sometimes called “red salmon.” It also has a stronger flavor and its firmer texture holds up well to grilling. This salmon travels from Washington, to the western seaboard, to Alaska. You can also find them in the Great Lakes besides Superior. Nevertheless, you can recognize this variety by referring back to its name. They have bright golden eyes that are bigger than the others. Contrary to the first two mentioned above, sockeye salmons have a white mouth and white gums. And, they don’t have spots in either their tails or backs.
- Pink Salmon – This salmon is the smallest among all its species. On average, it only ranges between 18 and 30 inches in length. This species is most often used in canned or smoked salmon because it is one of the cheapest. Despite that, pink salmons only show up every other year. Interestingly, if a year ends on an odd number, you can find them in Washington and British Columbia. Otherwise, if a year ends on an even number, head up to Alaska instead. Or, you can catch them year in, year out at the Great Lakes. Nevertheless, you can also recognize this species by referring back to its name, as it has a slight pinkish hue to their bodies. Once you open their mouths, you should see a white mouth with dark gums, opposing Coho.
- Chum Salmon – This salmon is not just one of the smallest among its species, but it’s also the least favorite. First, they don’t taste as good as the other salmon species. Second, they don’t fight as much as Coho. In fact, they’re considered more of a pest rather than a treat. But, they make up for it with its roe. The roe of chum salmon is much bigger and tastier than the others. It’s the roe of choice when it comes to topping sushi. This variety travels from the northwestern mainland to the Pacific coast of Canada and the Gulf of Alaska. Unlike the other species, chum salmon were never introduced in the Great Lakes. Moreover, this species is often confused with sockeye. While both have white mouths and white gums, chum salmon have subtle bands of color running down their body. They also have larger teeth that resemble that of a big dog; hence, where the name “dog salmon” came from.
- Atlantic Salmon – This is the most common fish you will find in markets. It provides a rich and fatty taste that most people love. However, environmental groups do not recommend them anymore (see below). Atlantic salmon live on the other side of the continent. Plus, this species is being fished to extinction. That’s why if you’ve tracked one, you’re in for a real treat. This salmon can grow as large as Chinook, yet it fights like a Coho. You can recognize them by their spots, as they have large dark ones on the covers of their gills and an x or y-shaped series of spots on their upper body.
Now that we’ve all learned the different species of salmon that are readily available in the market, here are some few things to keep in mind to better come up with the perfect one:
- Choosing between wild or farmed salmon. First of all, all Alaskan salmons are wild-caught. On another note, fishing wild Atlantic salmon is illegal in the United States. Thus, if you are to choose between wild or farmed, choose wild. Environmental groups have already listed most of the farmed salmon on their red (to avoid) list because many farms use crowded pens, as such pens promote the infection of lice. Although it can be treated with antibiotics, it can still spread its disease to another fish. In fact, this is one of the reasons why Alaska has banned salmon farms.
- Choosing between organic and inorganic. While we might think that organic salmons are healthier, there isn’t really a USDA organic standard for salmon. Thus, there is no guarantee that a salmon labeled as “organic” means anything else besides the fact that it was farmed.
- Choosing between fresh, frozen, or canned salmon. When choosing between these, consider the month or season you are in right now. If it falls between June to September (late spring to early fall), choose the fresh ones. In fact, during this period, you can order fresh salmon by mail. Otherwise, frozen salmon might be the better option. Meanwhile, canned wild salmon is an economical choice. When buying such, opt for BPA-free cans or pouches. In addition, when you’re buying salmon that are meant to be served raw, purchase the ones that are labeled “sushi-grade.” This label means that the fish has been pre-treated to limit the risk of food-borne illnesses.
Salmon Production & Farming in Texas
Salmons are widely farmed in many parts of the world. Traditionally, they were first conceived in the freshwater. Then, they migrate to the ocean or saltwater before returning to the freshwater to reproduce. Tail Tales even state that this fish returns to the exact spot where they were hatched to spawn. Nevertheless, salmon, at any stage of its growth, need cold, clean, and oxygenated water to thrive. Thus, it can be very hard to find or farm salmon in the state of Texas. Still, imported salmons are widely available for purchase.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Fortunately, the majority of store-bought salmons do not contain any other additives besides salt. Thus, as we scrutinized each brand, we only found the following:
- Sodium – Although sodium is a natural food that balances our body fluids, it can cause harm when consumed past its RDA which is 2,300 mg per day.
- Citric Acid – This additive is a natural preservative in foods. It is a weak and organic acid that is found on citrus fruits. Thus, citric acid adds that sour or acidic taste to the product. Although it is generally classified as safe to consume, it may cause muscle cramps, weight gain, stomach pain, and convulsions.
- Astaxanthin – When a packaging has a “color added” label, it states that the product was given a feed that contains astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a pigment that is absorbed into the flesh of the fish, giving it a reddish-orange “salmon” color. To further understand, this pigment gives flamingos their pink color. And, it is also the one responsible when we cook shrimps and crabs, and they change their color to red-orange.
Fresh, raw salmons are sold by the pound, kilo, or by the piece. They’re commonly packaged in hard plastics. These are plastics that aren’t flexible or elastic and are used in the production of trays and form-fill pack of fishery products. With this, raw salmons are packaged in a tray with plastic overlay. However, since plastics have detrimental environmental effects, some are now being sold in environment-friendly containers and plastics. Even pouches for seafood are self-contained now. Moreover, some frozen ones also come in a thin plastic bag inside a carton – this can range up to 15 kg in weight. Canned salmons are still available in the market, though.
Salmon is one of the fishes that can be eaten raw. In fact, salmon sashimi can be one of the most expensive foods in the world. However, when eating one, be sure that you’re getting it from a reputable source. It’s way too risky eating raw fish that might’ve been contaminated. If that’s the case, it’s better to cook the fish. Salmon is a very versatile piece of protein. You can grill, roast, smoke, bake, and poach it. Also, you can mix it on pasta, sandwiches, tacos, hash browns, burgers, cakes, salads, and more. And, while salmon fillets are widely available in the market, it’s also important to know that salmon skin is edible too! As a matter of fact, that part is even tastier than the flesh. Thus, consider getting the skin as well.
The most important thing to remember about salmon is to keep it refrigerated at all times – except for canned ones. Upon purchase, transfer the fish into an airtight container and refrigerate it for 1-2 days. Although the sell-by-date may expire during this period, rest assured that the salmon will remain safe if it has been properly stored. Moreover, follow the general rule of leaving raw seafood on the counter. Do not leave it for more than 2 hours at room temperature. To further prolong the shelf life of raw salmon, freeze it. When you do, make sure to freeze it upon purchase, before the date shown on the label. Also, it’ll help if you wrap the purchased salmon once again as this may avoid freezer burns. Properly stored, raw salmon can retain its freshness in the freezer for 2-3 months. On the other hand, cooked salmon can be refrigerated for 3-4 days and frozen for up to 4 months.
Let’s get cooking!
Salmon is a highly nutritious food that is so delectable and easy to cook. Their high-fat content makes it the perfect choice for those who adhere to the keto diet. Thus, let’s level it to the hilt and make a 100% keto food that you will surely love!
Yield: 2 servings
- 2 4-oz raw salmon fillet, preferably sockeye, Alaska Native
- ¼ tsp mustard powder
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt
- ⅛ tsp ground black pepper
- ⅛ tsp paprika
- ⅛ tsp chili powder
- ⅛ tsp garlic powder
- ⅛ tsp onion powder
- ⅛ tsp lemon pepper seasoning
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 tsp barbeque sauce
- 4 oz raw tomatoes
- 2 ½ oz brown mushrooms, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tsp olive oil
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Pat dry the salmon fillets using a kitchen towel. Season with the second 8 ingredients.
- Heat olive oil in a cast iron over high heat. Place the salmon and cook until the spices have blackened and the fish can easily be flipped (roughly 2 minutes).
- Flip the salmon and take the skillet or cast iron off the heat.
- Pour bbq sauce on each fillet and set aside.
- Meanwhile, mix tomatoes, mushrooms, and garlic along with the remaining olive oil and salt. Toss them in the cast iron.
- Place the cast iron in the oven and bake the salmon for 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145ºF.
- Rest for 5 minutes before serving.