Phone

Foods

Salmon
Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation


Why Eat It

One of the most delicious fish, salmon--especially the fattier species--is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat that continues to surprise researchers with its disease-fighting properties. Omega-3s help fight heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels and making the blood less likely to clot. Also, Omega-3s seem to have a protective effect against some forms of cancer. This type of fat, found mainly in seafood, also seems to lessen symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3s show promise in fighting serious mental disorders such as psychosis and bipolar disorder, and have shown some effect against depression and stress. Omega-3s lower blood pressure in some patients suffering from hypertension. And there's still more good news about salmon: Canned salmon, which contains plenty of edible, tender-cooked bones, furnishes a significant amount of the calcium needed to strengthen bones and fight osteoporosis. And finally, salmon is a good source of B vitamins.

Varieties

Several types of salmon are sold commercially.

Chinook, or king salmon, the largest and fattiest fish, has firm, usually deep red flesh. Chinook is sold fresh, frozen, and smoked.

Sockeye (also called red or blueback), the finest canned salmon (but also sold fresh), has deep-red meat and the next-highest fat content.

Coho, or silver salmon, is a small fish with medium-red, less fatty flesh; usually it is sold fresh.

Chum, or dog salmon, is a lower-fat fish with firm, sometimes coarse, pale flesh.

Pink, or humpback, is the leanest salmon. It has soft, bland, pink flesh that is usually canned.

Availability

Flash-freezing on fishing boats and deliveries by air bring most salmon varieties fresh to markets around the country. All varieties except coho are usually available canned. Commercially smoked salmon is most often Chinook, but its valuable fat content is reduced in the processing.

Shopping

Fresh salmon does not keep well, so buy it the day you want to eat it, or at most, the day before. Do all other shopping first before buying fish, and get it into a refrigerator as soon as possible after buying it. On hot days, take a cooler or have the salmon packed in ice to keep it chilled in transit.

Fresh salmon is sold whole, in fillets or in steaks. Look for firm flesh (it should spring back when touched), translucent and moist, but with no liquid pooling around it. The smell should be sweet, not fishy. Ask if the fish has been frozen and thawed, so you will know if you can freeze it at home. Avoid buying salmon at bargain prices; they often indicate the store's effort to get rid of fish that's less than fresh.

Canned salmon, a pantry staple, is available everywhere. Look for the fattiest variety, and check the usability date on the can. Pick water-packed fish over oil-packed. Draining water-packed salmon barely affects the desirable fatty-acid content of the salmon while the oil leaches away up to a quarter of the omega-3 fatty acids. If sodium content is a concern, look for low-salt brands.

Smoked salmon is best when purchased at a counter where it is freshly cut. Vacuum-sealed packs of smoked salmon are good if they have been properly stored in transit, so buy from reputable shops. Pick prewrapped salmon only in stores with a very high daily turnover.

Storage

Fresh fish is more perishable than chicken or meat, and must be kept refrigerated until cooked. It should be cooked the same day it is bought; no later than the next day. Whole fish will keep better than steaks or fillets. As soon as you get salmon home, rinse it, place it on paper towels, seal it in a clean plastic bag and store in the coldest part of the refrigerator or in a pan of ice.

To freeze fresh salmon, you need a 0°F freezer, preferably a chest-style unit rather than an upright freezer. Make sure the dealer has not sold you fish that has been frozen and thawed, as fish should never be refrozen. Cut large pieces (two pounds or more) into steaks or fillets so they will freeze quickly. Rinse and pat dry, then wrap tightly in heavy-duty freezer paper or polyvinyl chloride plastic wrap. Overwrap with foil or a freezer bag. Frozen salmon keeps about three months.

Smoked salmon keeps for up to three days wrapped tightly in the refrigerator. (For vacuum-packed smoked salmon, check the label for storage instructions.)

Preparation

Rinse fresh salmon, pat dry, and proceed immediately with your favorite recipe for grilling, broiling, sauteing, steaming, or baking. Never leave fresh fish at room temperature. If marinating is called for, do it in the refrigerator.

Thaw frozen salmon in the refrigerator overnight; thawing it a room temperature allows bacteria to destroy its freshness.

Cook salmon the minimum time called for in recipes. It should be cooked thoroughly to destroy all harmful organisms, but not so much that it falls apart or becomes tough or dry. The flesh will look opaque and flaky when done. Use a meat thermometer on large fish; it's ready to eat at 145°. Take fish off the stove just before it is perfectly done; it will continue to cook for a few minutes after it is removed from the heat.

Smoked salmon needs no preparation before eating.

Eating raw salmon in sushi bars or rare salmon in restaurants is generally safe because the fish is frozen (which kills harmful parasites) before serving.


Date Published: 04/21/2005
Previous  |  Next
> Printer-friendly Version Return to Top