Other Names: Atlantic salmon: Echter lachs (German); laks (Danish, Norwegian); lax (Icelandic, Swedish); lohi (Finnish); losos, syemga (Russian); sake masu-rui (Japanese); salmão do Atlântico (Portuguese); salmón (Spanish); salmone atlantico (Italian); saumon atlantique (French); solomós tou Atlantikoú (Greek); som baligi (Turkish); zalm (Dutch). Chinook salmon: Blackmouth; king or spring salmon; konigslachs (German); salmone reale (Italian); saumon royal (French); tyee. Chum salmon: Calico, dog, or keta salmon; chub. Coho salmon: Blush, silver, or white salmon; ginzake (Japanese); hoopid salmon; salmone argentato (Italian); saumon argenté (French); silberlachs (German); silversides. Pink salmon: Buckellachs (German); humpback salmon; humpy; salmon rosado (Spanish); salmone rosa (Italian); saumon rose (French); sepparimasu (Japanese). Sockeye salmon: Beni-zake (Japanese); quinaults; rotlachs (German); saumon rouge (French); salmone rosso (Italian). Salmonidae.

Top: Atlantic salmon
Bottom: King salmon

General Description: Salmon all swim in temperate or cold waters of the Northern Hemisphere and are anadromous, spawning in fresh water but spending much of their life at sea. They get their pink to red color from eating krill. Numbers
of wild salmon have dropped greatly in the past fifty years because of environmental deterioration, and some traditional runs have tragically disappeared. Wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are silver-skinned with distinct black crosslike spots on the upper half of the body and head. Limited quantities of wild Atlantic salmon are found in the rivers of Europe and North America, though today most is farmed and air-freighted to market. Atlantic salmon are also farm-raised in
the Pacific waters of Chile. Farm-raised salmon are one of the great successes of modern aquaculture, though this has led to significant pollution.

Top: Coho salmon
Bottom: Sockeye salmon

Wild Pacific salmon range from Alaska to California, and in America, wild salmon is almost invariably from the Pacific, though these may also be farmed. Chinook or kings (Onchorhynchus shawytscha_) are the largest species, often served in top restaurants. They are fatty enough to stay moist and mild in flavor. Coho (O. kisutch_) most resemble Atlantic salmon, with plump bodies and black spots on their fins. They have light to deep pink flesh and are quite succulent. Coho are favored by European cold-smokers. Sockeye salmon (O. nerka_) have deep red, firm flesh, though the lean meat and pronounced flavor make them less
versatile. They show up in premium cans as “red salmon.” Chum salmon (O. keta_) are less prized because of light color and low fat content, though for those reasons, they have a longer shelf life. Humpback or pink salmon (O. gorbuscha
) are the smallest variety and are more valued in Asia. Sea or salmon trout (
S. trutta
) are a close relation and are the same species as the brown trout of rivers.

Locale and Season: Farmed Atlantic salmon is in season year-round. The Pacific wild salmon season starts in June with chinook, followed by sockeyes through August and smaller cohos into September. Coho are farmed in floating pens in Chile and Japan, and they have been introduced to some lakes and are farm-raised in the United States. Humpback salmon are in season in July and August, with runs heavier in alternate years. Wide-ranging chum, landed in the northeastern Pacific, are in season in August and September.

From top: Atlantic fillet, Atlantic steak, King fillet

Characteristics: Farmed Atlantic salmon may weigh up to 18 pounds, but 4 to 6 pounds is common. The flesh of farmed salmon varies according to diet. In general it is milder and less firm than wild, retains its color when cooked, is moderately oily, and has large, moist flakes. The quality of wild salmon is directly related to the length of its native river. The longer it takes a salmon to reach its spawning grounds, the higher its oil content and the better its flavor. The best salmon are trollcaught, gill-bled, and chilled on board. Note that anisakis, a small roundworm, can be present in wild but not in farmed salmon. Darker salmon are often leaner than paler salmon.

Chinook have dark spots on their fins and back and may reach more than 50 pounds, though average market weight is 11 to 18 pounds. Chinooks develop a high level of fat for their long voyages, so they are buttery rich in flavor with soft meat. Their flesh is red, except for rare and prized white-flesh kings, not to be confused with pale kings, which are sexually mature fish. The highest quality chinooks are troll-caught in the ocean.

From top: Coho and sockeye fillets

Sockeyes range from 4 to 10 pounds. Seine-caught fish fetch a premium price, as do the small amount of troll-caught salmon. Their meat is brilliant red when raw and red and firm when cooked. Sockeyes do well with brief marinating and simple grilling. Coho are large, about 10 pounds, with relatively high fat content and excellent color retention. They have mild flavor, medium-firm flesh, and velvety texture. Those farmed in floating pens in Chile and Japan are smaller,
2 to 3 pounds each.

Chum average 6 to 12 pounds and may be inconsistent in quality; the best are from British Columbia and Alaska. Chum are light in color with low fat content, so they are not suited to grilling or broiling. They are often used in value-added products such as canned and hot-smoked salmon because of low price. Pinks are the smallest salmon, with market weight 2
to 6 pounds. Their mild-flavored meat is relatively lean, so it can be on the dry side. Yield is 60 percent and up for larger fish.

How to Choose: Choose the freshest, firmest fish possible with bright eyes. Avoid fish with signs of bruising or with flesh
that doesn’t spring back when pressed. Freezing to -20°F (critical if serving wild salmon raw) or cooking to an internal temperature of 145°F kills parasites.

Storage: Keep salmon as cold as possible and serve it within 2 days. Store refrigerated topped with crushed (not
cubed) ice in a perforated pan set over a second pan.


1. Remove the pin bones from the salmon using fish
pliers or needlenose pliers.

2. Bake, broil, grill, poach, sauté, hot- or cold-smoke, or steam. Use farm-raised salmon for sushi.

Suggested Recipe: Pan-Fried Salmon with Lemon and Pine Nuts (serves 4): Soak 1/4 cup dried currants in 1/4 cup brandy. Mash together 2 tablespoons soft butter with 1 tablespoon each lemon juice and zest. Season 4 (6- to 8-ounce) salmon fillets with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Brown in olive oil on both sides. Remove fish from pan and keep warm. Reduce heat, add 1/4 cup pine nuts, and brown lightly in 2 tablespoons butter. Add the currants and brandy; flame the pan. When the flames die down, add 1/2 cup diced tomato to the pan along with the salmon. Simmer 10 minutes, or until the salmon is medium-rare, then swirl in the lemon butter.

Flavor Affinities: Almond, basil, butter, chervil, cream, cucumber, dill, lemongrass, lime, mushroom, pine nut, potato, scallion, shallot, spinach, tarragon, white wine, yogurt.

from Quirk Books: