What is the best tasting salmon?Blog Number 11, June, 2022

Here are ten what I think are pretty good answers.

The best tasting salmon
is one you catch yourself.

The best tasting salmon is
wild, not farmed.

The best tasting salmon is
not too raw, not dry and overdone, but cooked just right.

The best tasting salmon is
the first fish of the season.

The best tasting salmon is
cooked right by a river over an open wood fire.

The best tasting salmon is
cooked or smoked the traditional way,
by a Native American.

The best tasting salmon is
one which you eat with family and friends.

The best tasting salmon is
cooked only with a little butter,
and touch of lemon, nothing else.

The best tasting salmon
was the very first one you caught as a child,
fishing with your Dad or Mom.

The best tasting salmon would have been
that world record king which somehow got away.

The answer to this question really depends on four separate but related questions.

  1. How was the fish raised?
  2. How was it treated after being caught?
  3. What kind of salmon is it?
  4. How was it cooked?

How was the fish raised?

For me the only answer is that it be wild salmon raised in the ocean, not salmon farmed in a pen. I won’t get into the complicated and controversial issue as to whether or not it started out in a hatchery or in a river or creek. While I realize that over 3/4 of the salmon consumed in the world today is farmed, that it is an affordable, tasty and fairly healthy source of protein, and available year-round, farmed salmon has too many negatives for me to overlook to embrace it fully, at least now.

How was it treated after being caught?

There is nothing like the taste of a fresh-caught salmon. It is akin to the fact that a home-grown tomato out of the garden, or an ear of corn that has just come off the stalk and dropped into boiling water taste so much better. People can tell the difference and appreciate it. Fishermen today can use technology and special handling techniques to come close to this quality (bleeding, gutting, then flash-freezing within hours of catching it). This is done by more and more fishermen as they respond to the demand for great tasting salmon year-round. Still, fresh caught usually also means that one is closer to the source, influencing how we view (and taste) the fish.

What kind of salmon is it?

Back in 2019 I posted a blog (number 6) entitled “Copper River Salmon … The Best?”

Copper River might be the best marketed fish, and it often is the first fish of the season (this year appearing in restaurants and stores on May 17th, with a pricey $49 per pound price-tag in a Portland QFC), and some people swear that Copper River kings or sockeye are the best tasting, but, just like beauty, taste is in the mouth of the beholder. 

I have Alaskan friends who swear by the rare “white” Kings of the Yukon, the early chums in the Kuskokwim, or coho from the waters off Prince of Wales Island in Southeast. A few relish a kokanee from Kootenay Lake in British Columbia. Some even argue for “organic” farmed salmon from Ireland or the new “Kuterra” brand being promoted from north Vancouver Island.

Sockeye and Chinook (a.k.a. kings) are featured most in fancy restaurants. Wild fresh coho appears on menus in coastal communities where trollers work the nearshore waters. Steelhead are an angler’s dream fish, providing a good fight and mild but delicious “trout-like” flavor. 

More recently, the abundant yet oily and light pinkish flesh of chum (a.k.a. dog) salmon is appearing in fishmarkets as “keta” or “silverbright”. Its eggs are preferred for Japanese _____.  Even those abundant, yet smaller pinks (a.k.a. humpies), which used to be almost exclusively marketed in cans, are now sold fresh in some fish markets when they are running, and can taste pretty good. 

My answer to this questions is that they are all good-tasting if wild, fresh, and prepared properly. 

How was it is prepared?

Which brings us to the last question.

This is where you, the reader come in. I’m sure you have a favored way of salmon preparation. I invite you to use the comments box below to share it with me and any readers I might have. 

As for me, I grew up in Minnesota, and didn’t really experience non-canned salmon until I was in my twenties. My first real sense of how delicious it could be was when my friend Stephen Reeve prepared it on his beach at First Waterfall Creek, north of Ketchikan. He had developed a technique of cooking it over campfire coals with a wire-mesh around it so it could be turned easily, key to getting it cooked throughout quickly. All he added was some butter and lemon. I was hooked. Here was the taste of Alaska.  

Twenty-some years ago I always ordered blackened salmon when I saw it in restaurants. It was quite popular back then, part of a Cajun food wave that was cresting. The filet is liberally seasoned with cajun spice, then cooked on a hot skillet until near black on the exterior, resulting in a crisp, almost charred exterior with a moisty mellow interior. I liked the contrast from the two distinct textures and flavors. 

I think the most critical part of preparing salmon is to make sure it is cooked throughout (a challenge with some thick filets or steaks) and moist. I am always surprised at how fast a salmon cooks, seven minutes on a grill can usually be all that is needed. And, if I am dealing with fish that was frozen, I have come to prefer slow thawing (in cold water for 4 to 6 hours) and then baking it for 10 to 12 minutes wrapped in foil, with a little butter and thin slices of lime. This keeps it moist. 

I would love to hear your perspectives on both the best tasting salmon and how you prefer to cook (and eat) it. 

And, include a photo if you can (of the cooked fish, not you).

Dennis Lloyd Kuklok

Rocky Brook Yurt & Dessert + Tipi & Igloo (weather permitting)

&

The North American Museum of Rusty Tools and Bicycles With Flat Tires

One response to “What is the best tasting salmon?Blog Number 11, June, 2022”

  1. Doug Hatfield Avatar
    Doug Hatfield

    Hi Dennis, ” Of Salmon and Stumps”

    Here are a couple of timely quotes from James G. Swan- “The Northwest Coast” ( 1857)

    (Pages 133 & 134) “The Oystermen celebrate the 4 th of July. A speech and a great bonfire.”
    ” These ceremonies over, it was proposed to close the performance for the day by going on top of the cliff opposite, and make a tremendous big blaze…where we found an old hollow cedar stump about twenty feet high.” …
    “We went to work with a will and soon had the old stump filled full of dry spruce limbs…It was the best bonfire I ever saw…Finally set fire to the whole forest…Till the winter rains finally extinguished it.”

    (Page 108) ” The choice part of a salmon with the Indians is the head, which is stuck on a stick. and slowly roasted by the fire. The other part is cut into large, flat slices,with skewers stuck through to keep them spread; then placed in a split stick… this stick is thrust in the sand firmly and at the right distance from the fire… Clam shells are placed underneath to catch the oil…Neither pepper, salt, nor butter were allowed…”
    “I was so much pleased with this style of cooking salmon that I never wish to have it cooked in any other form, either boiled and served with melted butter, or fried with salt pork , or baked with spices. The simpler a fat salmon can be cooked, the better…” Amen to that I say…!!

    Hope your Independence Day along the banks of Rocky Brook is a feast for all the senses..!!

    Regards, Doug

    Like

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  1. Doug Hatfield says:

    Hi Dennis, ” Of Salmon and Stumps”

    Here are a couple of timely quotes from James G. Swan- “The Northwest Coast” ( 1857)

    (Pages 133 & 134) “The Oystermen celebrate the 4 th of July. A speech and a great bonfire.”
    ” These ceremonies over, it was proposed to close the performance for the day by going on top of the cliff opposite, and make a tremendous big blaze…where we found an old hollow cedar stump about twenty feet high.” …
    “We went to work with a will and soon had the old stump filled full of dry spruce limbs…It was the best bonfire I ever saw…Finally set fire to the whole forest…Till the winter rains finally extinguished it.”

    (Page 108) ” The choice part of a salmon with the Indians is the head, which is stuck on a stick. and slowly roasted by the fire. The other part is cut into large, flat slices,with skewers stuck through to keep them spread; then placed in a split stick… this stick is thrust in the sand firmly and at the right distance from the fire… Clam shells are placed underneath to catch the oil…Neither pepper, salt, nor butter were allowed…”
    “I was so much pleased with this style of cooking salmon that I never wish to have it cooked in any other form, either boiled and served with melted butter, or fried with salt pork , or baked with spices. The simpler a fat salmon can be cooked, the better…” Amen to that I say…!!

    Hope your Independence Day along the banks of Rocky Brook is a feast for all the senses..!!

    Regards, Doug

    Like

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