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Six Tips for Selecting Salmon

Wild salmon season is upon us! Rich in omega-3s, wild salmon is a great choice for summer BBQs or light family meals, and Whole Foods Market® is proud to offer a variety of different options.

With so many types and species available, you may have a few questions. Copper or Columbia River? King or sockeye? How can you tell if it’s a good quality fish?

As Whole Foods Market’s dedicated Alaska port buyer, I spend four months of the year on docks and piers, selecting the finest salmon for our fresh seafood cases. In the process, I’ve developed a few tips for picking a delicious fish:

  1. Salmon comes in a variety of colors. “Redder” doesn’t necessarily mean better. For example, Coho is a little paler than King, but is equally delicious. What you want to avoid is any salmon that shows signs of browning. You can also check for clear eyes, minimal bruising and firmness of flesh, which should be resistant to light pressure and bounce back easily once depressed.
  2. Where the fish was caught and its level of maturity affects how it will taste. I try to buy troll-caught salmon; trollers catch fish by hook and line while moving gently through the water, dragging artificial or fresh bait. Each fish is handled individually and is well tended by the trollers, who are some of the most conscious fishermen in terms of quality and workmanship. They care about the environment and take great pride in what they deliver.
  3. King (Chinook) salmon is the most highly sought-after of all the salmon species due to its high oil content and moderate to full flavor. King comes in many shades of orange to red; there are even some tasty white-meated Kings. Some of the most highly prized are Yukon River Kings, Columbia River Spring Kings, and Copper River Kings. Omega-3s are abundant in these fish and the dining experience is exquisite!
  4. Sockeye Reds draw people in with their bright red color and extra firm texture. Premium sockeye – that with the highest oil content – comes from either very long river systems or from very cold, glacial river systems.  The best sockeye comes from the Copper River, Frasier River and Yakutat (or really any location in Alaska).
  5. Coho (Silver salmon) comes to market a little later in the summer. Its milder flavor makes it a good choice if you’re introducing salmon to kids. This variety is also particularly great for grilling.
  6. Wild salmon populations are threatened in some parts of the world. To be a responsible fish eater, ask your fishmonger if the salmon you’re buying comes from a sustainable fishery. You can always look for fish from Marine Stewardship Council-certified sources, or from fisheries that are green- or yellow-rated according to the Blue Ocean Institute/Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.

Do you have questions about selecting the right wild salmon? Strike up a conversation with the fishmonger at your local Whole Foods Market seafood counter or drop me a line in the comments section below.