Salmon Selection, Cooking, and Recipes

How to Cook Salmon

salmon with cucumber salad
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Selecting Salmon to Eat

Fresh Fish: The rule with all fish is to get it as fresh as possible. It is far preferable to buy fish that has been frozen and recently thawed at the market than to buy fresh fish that has been sitting for a few days. If you are able to see the whole fish, look for clear eyes and clean red or pink gills. If you are able to smell the fish, it should smell like the sea, not “like fish”.

Again, these rules are true of all fish.  More about choosing salmon, including varieties.

The color of the salmon will partly vary by species. Farmed salmon is usually artificially colored: it would be very pale otherwise (the safety of the most common coloring agent has been questioned: it is allowed in the US, but not in some other countries).

Canned salmon: Is almost always wild, and almost always one of the pink-fleshed varieties. Canned salmon is rich in calcium because there are small edible bones in it.

Smoked Salmon: Salmon can also be preserved by smoking it (commonly called “hot smoked), where it is dry cured with salt and spiced and then smoked. Lox and nova salmon is often called smoked, but it really is cured in brine, and not smoked at all.

Cooking Salmon

Being one of the fattier fish, salmon is sturdy and holds up to a great variety of cooking styles, including grilling, baking, poaching, broiling, or pan-frying.

The important thing is not to let it dry out. When using a dry heat method (baking, grilling), cook just until it flakes. This is about 10 minutes for each inch of thickness (on the grill, 5 minutes per side). It does not have to be opaque all the way through to be cooked – it will probably be dry if you wait that long.

Salmon Serving Suggestions

Salmon works with a wide variety of flavors. Whereas more delicate fish becomes overwhelmed with strong flavors, salmon takes to lots of different sauces, rubs, and marinades. You can cover it with a pesto, put it in a Thai curry, or just serve it simply with a squeeze of lemon or lime. Like all fish, it goes well with citrus flavors. Though dill is probably the herb most commonly associated with salmon, almost any fresh herb you can think of tastes wonderful with it.

Since salmon fishing starts in the spring and goes through summer, think of spring vegetables such as asparagus and mushrooms to go with salmon, progressing to almost any combination of summer vegetables.

Here are some of my favorite salmon recipes:

  • Grilled Dilled Salmon – This is a delicious grilled salmon. Don’t be put off by the mound of dill on it – it collapses with the heat, and makes a lovely green “mat” on top of the salmon. Guests always comment on this dish.
  • Oven-Baked Salmon with Herbs - This technique for baking fish – low and slow - is something of a miracle. It bakes right on the platter you will serve it on, and retains its moisture beautifully.
  • Salmon with Tangy Glaze - The tangy glaze on this salmon is sweet and spicy, and works very well with the rich taste of salmon. I like it for grilled salmon, but it works for baked salmon as well.
  • Crustless Smoked Salmon Quiche – I use canned smoked salmon for this elegant quiche. Regular canned salmon, or smoked salmon from a package, would be fine, too.
  • Salmon Salad - An Alternative to Tuna - three times the Omega-3 fat, a full day's supply of vitamin D, and many more nutrients than tuna. Give it a try!
  • Leftover salmon can be used in lots of ways. Put in on top of a green salad. Put it in an omelet or another egg dish. Make salmon cakes or croquettes. Just try to use it up within two or three days.

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