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Salmon Quandry

Seasoned Salmon

We’ve been in the habit of eating salmon about once a week, usually on Sunday. I’ve perfected a very simple method: a sprinkling of Tony’s and twelve minutes on the Big Green Egg. That’s it. The results are always spectacular — moist and fatty and delicious. Xy has even had to stop saying she “doesn’t like fish” because she can’t deny she loves salmon prepared this way.

We often have asparagus and/or couscous on the side. But I digress.

We always bought fresh, farm-raised salmon. But recently I was apprised of the fact that the supposed health benefits of salmon are offset by various toxins in the farm-raised variety, things like PCBs which are really not good for you. Also, even though the farmed salmon are fatty, they’ve got less of those omega-3 fatty acids that are all the rage these days.

I read that wild caught salmon are less toxic, have more omega-3, and taste better to boot.

So I looked for wild salmon at the grocery. The only wild salmon they carry is frozen. But that’s OK, I thought, because I recently read that frozen salmon are actually a better choice from an ecological standpoint.

Therefore I’ve taken to buying frozen, wild-caught salmon.

Unfortunately, so far, this has been a major culinary and gustatory disappointment. I’ve tried thawing the frozen salmon in advance. I’ve tried not thawing at all. I’ve played with different cook times. But still I end up with a fillet that is dry. I abhor dry salmon, and Xy does too.

I’m not sure whether the difference stems from the fact that the fish is frozen or because it’s wild. But it’s been so frustrating that I’m about to go back to eating farm-raised. Maybe it’s those PCBs that make ’em so yummy. Besides, I read a lot of so-called “wild-caught” salmon are in fact raised in farms and only released into the wild for a short while before catching, so in fact they’re not much better.

I suppose in the interests of thoroughness I need to buy some fresh wild salmon and see how that tastes. But that means venturing to a different grocery.

Published inEcologyFood & Drinx


  1. Phil Phil

    All fish is flash-frozen when caught. If you find it “unfrozen” at the grocery, that just means the grocer has gone to the trouble of thawing it for you.

  2. Thanks Judy, I meant to note that I’ve thought about marinades and toppings but will feel somewhat defeated if it comes to that. After all, I’ve been able to grill salmon for years now without marinades and keep it moist. Surely there’s some way?

  3. toneknee toneknee

    Living up here in the PNW at least affords me the benefit of getting wild salmon at the fish market. Copper River salmon is the best.

  4. Have you tried cooking for shorter times? My experience is that dry salmon (and any type of fish, for that matter) is always a result of over-cooking. I generally aim with wild salmon to cook it til it’s only JUST lost its translucence.

    Wild game in general, being more active and thus less fatty, needs to be cooked less. I struggled for years trying to get good results from wild duck until I learned that you actually need to leave it rare and bloody. Which kinda scares me, except it’s supposedly not at risk of the same problems with undercooked chicken and other grocery store birds….I pretty much just sear the outside of deer and elk, it’s by far tastiest and most tender when pretty much raw inside. Cooked to medium, it’s tough and tastes like burned blood. When people complain about wild meat being “gamey,” 95% of the time the proper word is “overcooked.”

    Not to question your skills in the kitchen, mind you! heh. But many people don’t realize the quantifiable and significant difference between wild and farmed meats….

    And Toneknee is right — if you can ever get your hands on fresh Copper River salmon, pay any price. It’s amazing.

  5. Lee Lee

    You’re from Indiana B! We love our PCB’s, and can’t get enough of ’em! I hope you catch the joke in there.

  6. Phil Phil

    I had heard that unless you live next to the body of water where the fish are caught, then they’re frozen. For example, you can’t catch tuna off the coast of Japan, transport it to Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, have it purchased wholesale, then sent to a sushi restaurant in Kyoto without freezing it. If you didn’t freeze, you’d taste the fact that it’d been dead and out-of-water for 24-36 hours (especially true with raw fish). It’s my understanding that that’s why it’s possible to get high-quality sushi in Chicago (like you’d expect in Kyoto)–because it’s all frozen. Now, I can understand you having access to lots of fresh seafood down on the Gulf, but I have a hard time picturing you getting wild caught Alaskan Koho salmon that hasn’t been frozen for the journey down to New Orleans. But then again, I’ve been wrong many, many times before. Mayhaps this deserves further research.

  7. frog frog

    Most fish is caught by huge fishing boat that stay at sea for weeks, so they have to freeze their catch. Line-caught wild salmon is caught in a river and can be shipped fresh by air to us. You can find it at Whole Foods and Rouse’s, but if you are worried about the carbon footprint, stick with the frozen, just make sure it is not Chinese because of the extra traveling (and the Human Rights thing, but I digress) Chilean.
    Atlantic Salmon (1 species) and Pacific Salmon (7 species) are 2 different genera and virtually all Atlantic is farmed. But Pacific has superior flavor, due to great stores of fat, the best being Chinook (King) and Sockeye (Silver).
    I like to crisp the skin in a blazingly hot skillet.
    Off topic, all eels migrate to the Sargasso Sea to mate. I only mention it because they are delicious, should you ever catch one.

  8. If you’ve got a meat thermometer handy, try cooking it to 125 degrees; that’s what the america’s test kitchens’ cookbook I have recommends. They have an over-complicated poached salmon dish in there which I have cut down on the amount of fanciness to make it useful.

    The simplest old-school french salmon preparation is like what you’re doing in the egg, just use a nonstick pan and a lid, salt and pepper the fish, and put it skin side down in a hot pan and cover it for a few minutes.

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