Always look for a salmon that is firm to the touch, but bounces back if you press the flesh. The cut shouldn't have any liquid pooling around it and the meat should also be translucent and moist.
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Next: How to Store Salmon
Salmon can be stored in its original packaging for up to two days. For optimal freshness, unwrap the salmon, gently pat it dry, and wrap the filet tightly in plastic wrap. Fish like salmon usually fare best at the bottom of the refrigerator.
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Next: How to Freeze Salmon
It is important to capture as much moisture as possible. Wet the salmon, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and wrap again with aluminum foil. Place the filets in a freezer bag and keep away from the door to ensure a consistent temperature. If the salmon has been previously frozen, do not re-freeze.
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The best way to store fish is over ice. Remove the fish from its original packaging, rinse under cold water, and dry with paper towels. Set fish on a cooling rack and place inside a container filled with crushed ice. The ice should reach just beneath the fish, but shouldn’t touch it. Cover the container, rack, and fish with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place in the fridge. If the fish is stored longer than 24 hours, be sure to swap out the melted ice with a new batch. Ideally, any fresh fish should not be stored for more than two days.
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Some fish can be frozen for up to year (with three months as the standard), but its freshness depends entirely on its exposure to air. To limit this from taking place, you should first clean the fish, wrap it in aluminum foil or freezer paper, and place it in a freezer bag. Press down on the bag before closing to eliminate any excess air.
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Thawing frozen fish is quite an easy process. Simply leave it in the refrigerator overnight or place the wrapped fish in a bowl of cold water. Don’t microwave the fish, as some sections will cook while others are continuing to thaw.
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“This is one of those dishes that are impressive yet easy to make,” says San Francisco chef Traci Des Jardins. A big hunk of salmon on a platter (with some dill fronds around the sides as garnish) is a beautiful sight. Serve it on toast as canapés, by itself as an appetizer, or in a salad. It takes 24 hours to prepare, but for most of that time the fish is just sitting in the refrigerator.
What to buy: Try to avoid farm-raised salmon from the Atlantic; instead go for Alaskan wild salmon.
Game plan: The salmon will hold up for 4 or 5 days once it’s cured.
You can use our home-cured salmon in any recipe that calls for smoked salmon. Here are a few of our favorites: Heirloom Pea Pancakes with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche, Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches, and Smoked Salmon and Mozzarella Calzone.
The salmon is also great served simply: over a salad, scrambled into eggs with a little sour cream and chives, or topping your favorite schmear. Or try serving it straight up, paired with Marinated Potatoes and Fennel.
Aida Mollenkamp walks through the steps in our video on curing salmon. Also, watch our video on how to remove the pin bones from fish.