Q: How can I be sure I'm getting Wild Salmon?
A: All the salmon found in Alaskan waters are wild. In fact it is illegal to farm salmon in Alaska. The term wild salmon means that the fish are free range and can complete their natural life cycle without being penned and fed artificial foods.Even though farm raised salmon is frequently labeled as such, that's not always the case. "Atlantic" salmon, for instance, is commonly used to indicate farm raised, even though the name hardly implies that. Your best assurance is to buy from a market that clearly promises that all items are wild-caught. In Alaska, the salmon industry is all wild-caught; there are no Alaskan salmon farms. When you purchase Wild Alaska Salmon , you are not only getting the healthiest salmon possible, but also supporting many family-owned business and small Native Alaskan fishing communities.
Q: How do I select a good Wild Alaskan Salmon?
A: Wild Salmon come in a vast range of quality grades, all of which are eventually sold to someone. There are three ways to identify a quality fresh wild Salmon: smell it, touch it and look at it. If it smells fishy then it’s probably not fresh. When you touch it, if your finger print remains imprinted on the skin then it’s not fresh. Look at the eyes of the fish and if they are milky in color then it’s not fresh. The skin shouldn't look dry or discolored in anyway.
It is most unfortunate when consumers experience inferior quality salmon because many will consider the poor flavor indicative of wild salmon in general and cease eating one of the healthiest and potentially most delicious foods available. Too many mistakenly believe that "salmon is salmon" or "wild salmon is wild salmon." To get a wild salmon from the remote pristine waters of Alaska to your plate in prime condition requires a lot of special care. Along the way there are many obstacles to quality that can diminish it. Wild Alaskan Salmon is processed and frozen shortly after being caught. This is your guarantee of highest quality wild salmon available.
In a Los Angeles Times article published June 2, 2004, Russ Parsons addresses the subject of buying a quality wild salmon. Parts of Mr. Parsons’ article are reprinted below to further your education about buying wild salmon.
* Buying wild salmon is a puzzle, but it is one worth solving. Though the aquaculture industry has succeeded in turning its farmed cousin into something close to the chicken of the sea in its availability and pricing, wild salmon is truly one of nature's royals.
* The flesh is denser in texture than farmed, and the flavor is much more complex. Though it is leaner than farmed, what fat there is in wild salmon feels different - it seems to remain in the flesh longer during cooking, and it doesn't leave that mouth-coating feeling that the fat in farmed salmon can
* The next layer of complexity in the salmon puzzle is geographic, and that can have almost as much to do with the quality of the fish as the species.
* Wild Salmon are anadromous fish, which means that they are born in freshwater rivers, move to the ocean to mature, then return to the rivers of their birth to spawn. The place names associated with various runs of Wild salmon - Copper River, Young's Bay, Kenai - refer to the river systems in which the fish were born. This is important because each run is slightly different genetically.
* Be aware that "Atlantic" is not a salmon place name; rather it is a separate species (Salmo salar) and one that vanished as a commercial wild fishery decades ago. The Atlantic name now is an guaranteed indication of farmed salmon
* The cold, clear waters off Alaska's 34,000 mile shoreline are the world's greatest resource for natural, wild salmon. There, the five species of Alaska Salmon, Chinook, sockeye, Coho, Keta and Pink Salmon mature in an unmatched natural environment that provides them with superior flavor, color, and texture.
* A NATURAL ADVANTAGE-Wild Alaska Salmon has a richer color, firmer texture, and better flavor than industrially-produced farmed salmon. This natural superiority results from a life spent feeding on the sea's natural foods while swimming against the strong currents of the cold, clean North Pacific.
* The flavor of Wild Alaskan salmon depends upon its fat content and the environment in which it matured. Alaska’s icy pure waters and the abundance of natural food give Alaska salmon unparalleled flavor. The fat content of salmon depends not only on the genetic make-up of each species, but also on its spawning cycle. The longer and more vigorous the freshwater trip, the more fat the fish will carry as it leaves the ocean.
* YEAR-ROUND AVAILABILITY-Fresh-frozen natural Wild Alaska Salmon is available year-round in portion-controlled sizes.
Q: What are the benefits of wild-caught salmon over farmed salmon?
A: Wild Alaskan salmon grow naturally in Alaskan pristine waters, free of antibiotics, pesticides, growth hormones and artificial coloring agents. These salmon are among the purest fish found anywhere. In fact, the Alaska Division of Public Health continues to strongly recommend that pregnant women, women who are breast feeding, women of childbearing age, and young children continue unrestricted consumption of fish from Alaskan waters.
In contrast, The Audubon’s Living Oceans Campaign found that Farmed Salmon are fed more antibiotics per pound of livestock than are any other farmed animal. In fact, 23 million pounds of antibiotics are used annually in US animal production. Regulating the overuse of antibiotics is a serious problem in the fish farming industry, where salmon are raised in remote locations like Chile and British Columbia. A quick search on www.google.com for farmed salmon will provide you with compelling evidence of the need to choose your salmon carefully.
Q: Is it true that some farmed fish is dangerous to eat?
A: According to the David Suzuki Foundation, Farmed Atlantic salmon can be dangerous to eat: In an attempt to control disease and parasites among farmed salmon, powerful antibiotics and other drugs are dumped directly into open net cages. This largely unregulated use of antibiotics the same drugs used to treat human infections has already led to the development of drug-resistant "super-bugs". This poses grave risks not only to the wider marine ecosystem, but also to fish farm workers and to consumers of farmed salmon who may be affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. For more information, visit the David Suzuki Foundation’s website at davidsuzuki.org
Q: Is it true that fish farming is bad for the environment?
A: YES, Salmon aquaculture can be very bad for the environment. Every day British Columbia's aquaculture industry dumps the same amount of raw sewage into the ocean as a city of half a million people. High concentrations of fish waste and drugs, along with drug-resistant microbes, pass through the net-cages to settle and destroy life on the ocean floor. Much of it drifts throughout the marine environment, contaminating shellfish beds and other habitats and spreads disease up the food chain. For more information, visit the David Suzuki Foundation’s website at www.davidsuzuki.org under “Ocean Pollution”.
Q: Is wild Alaska salmon an endangered species?
A: NO, Alaska's wild salmon runs are the healthiest on earth. Each year, tens of millions of wild Alaska salmon return to spawn in their native rivers. Pristine habitat and well-managed commercial fisheries contribute to the preservation of Alaska’s most precious, and sustainable, natural resource. In September 2000, Alaskan salmon received the distinction of becoming the first U.S. fishery to be certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. MSC is an independent non-profit organization that awards its label only to seafood that has passed certification as sustainable. The MSC is supported by the World Wildlife Fund, the Audubon Society, Monterey Bay Aquarium/Seafood Watch Program and many others. Alaskan Salmon was recertified sustainable in 2013 by the MSC.
The fisheries are managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) and the Alaska state constitution requires that salmon habitats are conserved and protected. Today, this constitutional requirement, as well as effective management, has brought the Wild Alaska salmon fishery to health. In 1959, statewide salmon harvests were about 25 million salmon a year. In 1999 (forty years later) Alaska's commercial wild salmon catch was 214 million fish, the second largest in the state's history. The management plan includes establishing open and closed seasons; setting quotas, bag limits, harvest limits, sex and size limitations, establishing the methods and means employed in the pursuit, capture and transport of salmon, watershed and habitat improvement, management, conservation, protection, use, disposal, propagation and stocking of fish. There is strict and thoughtful regulating of commercial, sport, guided sport, subsistence, and personal use fishing as needed for the conservation, development and utilization of fisheries.
Q: Is fresh frozen Wild Salmon as good as fresh?
A: YES! if done right, in most cases it's better. As Author- New York Times Nutrition Writer, Jane Brody states, "The freshest seafood is that which has been frozen shortly after harvest and remains that way until cooked."
The Alaska seafood industry has perfected advanced quick-freezing technology which is unique in its ability to capture the fresh-caught flavor of the Alaska salmon while preserving the fish's firm texture and rich color. Fresher-frozen natural Wild Alaska Salmon is available year-round in portion-controlled sizes in a variety of product forms. Products that have been in a frozen state since they were first processed and stored properly will keep their quality until they are thawed. Wild Alaska Salmon, if handled properly, can result in a culinary experience without equal. The main concern with Salmon quality is temperature abuse. Salmon must be kept refrigerated from the time it is caught to the time it is prepared for cooking or the result is usually soft and smelly fish.
Q: What is the shelf life of Wild Salmon once it is thawed-out?
A: After thawing, and salmon fillets are kept refrigerated at 38°F or below, you have 2 days to consume it. You begin to loose quality from the time the product is thawed, so cook it or refreeze it as soon as you can.
Q: How do you thaw Salmon?
A: The best way is to thaw your fish under refrigeration (8 – 10 hours or overnight at or below 38° Fahrenheit). Before thawing in refrigerator, puncture or remove the vacuum-packaging.
For quick-thawing, place frozen package in cool water for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, just until contents are flexible, then immediately cook or refrigerate your fish. (if refrigerating, make sure to puncture package). Prior to cooking, do not allow fish to reach temperatures above 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
Q: What is the shelf life of vacuum sealed and frozen Salmon?
A: Salmon products that are vacuum sealed are in an air free environment, thus they are protected from dehydration or freezer burn. If the package keeps its integrity, the quality should remain the same as the day Salmon was packaged. Depending on freezer conditions, your fish can last from 6 – 12 months in a chest freezer, shorter time in a refrigerator/freezer.
Q: What is flash freezing?
A: Wild Salmon should be frozen as soon as possible after being caught. However, you can actually ruin some species of fish by freezing it too quickly or too cold, as it will burst the cells in the flesh. You can freeze it too slowly as well. The best temperature is -40°F with a -10°F core temperature in less than 5 hours. If you take two pieces of Salmon and clank them together after freezing, they should sound like striking two pieces of glass together.
Q: What do I do with my Salmon after it arrives?
A: Place it in a freezer as soon as possible. If there is thawing present, don’t be concerned unless the product is warm to the touch. If it is slightly thawed, just refreeze it and it will be fine. Consume any salmon where the vacuum packages have lost their seal, due to rough handling by either the airlines or shipper, first. Cold plastic is very brittle and the vacuum sealed packages should be handled with care to maintain their integrity.
Q: Does vacuum sealed smoked salmon need to be refrigerated?
A: YES! There are some smoked salmon products that don’t need refrigeration. They are a retort pouch which is the same thing as canning. It kills all the bacteria in the smoked fish with heat but in return you get a product that tastes canned. Our smoked salmon needs refrigeration because it is only cooked to 150° F during the smoking process. If smoked salmon is kept frozen and then thawed in the refrigerator when needed, you will experience what smoked salmon was meant to taste like. Keep in mind that all vacuum sealed products should be handled properly (keep refrigerated to 38°F. or below) to ensure your safety. Unopened package in the refrigerator, smoked salmon will keep for two weeks; after opening the package, can last for one week.
Q: Is Wild Salmon safe to eat raw?
A: Yes, as long as it has been rated sushi grade meaning it has been frozen to -10F for at least 36 hours to kill any parasites that might be present.
Q: What is the best wild salmon to eat?
A: While the five species of Pacific salmon all share a general outward resemblance, they vary in size, flesh color, and flavor. All species of wild salmon are wonderful to eat.
Chinook Salmon are lightly spotted on blue-green backs. They live from five to seven years, and can weigh up to 120 lbs. Also known as Springs or Kings, they are the most prized game salmon for sport fishers. Chinook is the largest species of Salmon, with richly flavored, flaky flesh ranging from ivory white to pink to deep red in color. Chinook Salmon has the high oil content due to its size and the length of time it spends fighting the ocean currents. The Chinook flesh takes a rub or marinade well.
Sockeye Salmon has a blue-tinged silver color skin. Sockeye salmon live four to five years, weigh up to 15 lbs and are the slimmest and most streamlined of the five species of Pacific salmon. Also known as Red Salmon, Sockeye are a popular salmon species for its stronger 'wild' flavor and uniquely beautiful, deep red color to its flesh. Great with other strong flavors like wild mushrooms.
Coho Salmon are bright silver in color. Often referred to as a Silver Salmon, they live three years, weigh up to 20 lbs., and are a popular game fish for sport fishers. The Coho’s versatile full flavor is coupled with fine-textured, consistently orange-red flesh. The firm Coho flesh is great on the grill.
Keta, also known as Chum or Dog salmon for their hooked upper lip, have black specks over their silvery sides and faint grid-like bars. They live three to five years, and weigh up to 20 lbs. Keta salmon offer a milder, more delicate flavor with a creamy pink to medium red flesh color. Keta are a soft meat and are often used in seafood chowders.
Pink Salmon are the smallest of the five Pacific Salmon species, living only two years. They have heavily spotted backs over silver bodies and weigh up to 5 lbs. Pink salmon are the most plentiful of the five species. Pinks have a delicate flavor and light flesh color and are most often commercially canned or used in pet foods.
Q: What is the best way to cook wild Salmon?
A: Quickly! Salmon tastes the best if cooked as quickly as possible. You can over cook Salmon very easily, so keep an eye on it and take it from the heat source as soon as it is done. You can tell this by cutting into it and looking to see if the opaque color is gone. Salmon should flake easily. Styles of cooking depend on personal preference. You can pan fry, deep fry, bake, saute, boil, broil, microwave, or barbeque. Pre-cooked or Smoked Salmon is great on salads, in rice dishes, soups, or folded into your favorite dips. It is really hard to ruin good wild Salmon if you don’t overcook it. Get some great recipes from our Salmon Recipes page for many great ideas to try.
Q: How much of the omega-3s are in the fatty gray meat beneath the salmon skin?
A: According to a world famous expert on fatty acids, Dr. Mary Enig, as much as two-thirds of the omega-3s in fish reside in the gray fatty layer beneath the skin. However it is interesting to note that tests conducted by the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory indicate that the flesh of wild sockeye salmon (for example) contains more than 1.2 grams of EPA and DHA per 3.5 oz (98 g) serving. This exceeds the 650 to 1000 mg recommended daily intake of omega-3s by more than 20%. So whether the gray fat is consumed or not, one is assured of getting a significant 'dosage' of EPA, DHA (and many other essential fatty acids) with each serving of salmon.
Cooking Wild Alaska Salmon
Q: What's the easiest way to cook wild salmon?
A: The wonderful thing about wild Alaska salmon is the ease with which it can be prepared. When you have good quality salmon you don't need a lot of fancy sauces and marinades to make up for marginal taste. Here are some very simple cooking ideas:
Into a bowl pour a small amount of olive oil (the amount depends upon number of portions--basically enough to coat what you're preparing). Add some seasoning to taste for example lemon pepper , garlic, dill, fennel or whatever other spices you like. Add a dash of soy sauce and a pinch of brown sugar or a few drops of maple syrup. All ingredients beyond the olive oil are optional. The oil will prevent sticking and help lock in moistness.
Mix your ingredients and brush over the pieces of salmon. You can then bake, grill, fry, or microwave it -- whatever you consider the easiest--and they're all pretty easy. When you think about it, it's not all that different than cooking a steak!
The most important thing is to not over cook your Salmon. The small portions will cook quickly. Salmon is a relatively lean fish and (like any meat) will become dry and tough if over-cooked. Pay close attention the first time you try a particular cooking method and note the time and temperature it takes to get it "just right." Once you figure this out, cooking your salmon will be a breeze.
Beginning with the simplest method, here are some cooking suggestions:
Microwave: The microwave is a quick and easy way to prepare salmon. Brush a thawed, 6 oz. portion with olive oil, sprinkle with spices, place in microwave on low power or "defrost" setting for around 9 minutes. Microwave ovens vary so you may need to adjust the time one way or the other. More than a couple pieces will take longer--adjust as necessary. Monitor the salmon closely the first time you try this method to insure optimum cooking time. Remove and serve.
Pan Fry: Same prep but place in pan with a small amount of olive oil over med-high heat for 3-4 minutes and cover. Turn salmon over, cover and cook 2-3 more minutes or until done.
Broil: Same prep, place salmon under broiler for 4-5 minutes. Turn if desired (may be unnecessary) Cook until done.
Grill: Same prep, place salmon on barbecue grill, cover, check after 4-5 minutes, watch closely, remove and serve (This is many people's favorite. Be sure everyone is ready to eat when you begin cooking the salmon as it cooks quickly and is always best served straight from the grill.)
Cooking wild salmon couldn't be much easier. Once you get the basic cooking method down you may want to branch out and experiment with other great recipes. Check out our Recipes for a great cooking adventure!.
Q: Why is my salmon dry and tough?
A: Wild salmon in general has more firm muscle structure and less fat than farmed Atlantic salmon. Consequently they are more subject to becoming dry and tough if overcooked. Brushing lightly with an olive oil based marinade, coupled with a shorter cooking time, always result in a delicious, moist salmon fillet.
Q: How do I know when my salmon is done?
A: "Done" is a matter of personal preference. Some prefer their salmon slightly under cooked, while others like it well done. It is completely cooked when the meat is opaque (solid pink) through the center. Because cooking times vary considerably by method, it is wise to use care the first time you prepare your salmon to be sure you don't overcook it, which may make it dry and tough. Wild Alaska Salmon is a very lean fish and subject to drying out if cooked too long. The rule we use is, "if you think it's almost done, it's done."