3 Tips for Preparing Salmon at Home

Bright and early this morning, the Copper River salmon season officially opened. Woohoo!! Excitement all around … will it be a good season?

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife: “The 2018 commercial salmon forecast is for a robust harvests of sockeye salmon (51.8 million), but for a substantially smaller harvest of pink salmon (70.2 million) compared to 2017. If realized, the 2018 forecast total harvest of 149 million salmon would be substantially less than the 225.7 million salmon harvested during 2017; mostly due to fewer projected pink salmon harvested.”

In 2017, 53.6 million sockeye were commercially harvested in Alaska; the fifth largest since 1970, and 24.9 million chum salmon, the largest harvest since 1970.

But, if you really want to try and understand the numbers, you have to bear in mind that while there are overall predictions, it’s not cut and dry from one place to the next; from one fish to the next. Here’s why:

  • There’s more than one species of salmon (Chinook, sockeye, Coho, pink, chum)
  • There’s more than one region where salmon is commercially—and recreationally—fished (Copper River, Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim, Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet, Southeast, and many more)
  • There’s more than one fishing method (gillnet—set and drift—purse seine, troll)

And all these things combine to influence salmon run forecasts. And trust me, they’re not all equal or even close to the same. For example, in 2017 both Chinook and Sockeye harvests were below the 10-year average in the Southeast and Yakutat region but Coho was above.

Needless to say, understanding salmon runs is a science. But, understanding how to purchase salmon—believe it or not—is as easy as this:

3 Tips for Purchasing & Preparing Salmon at Home

Don’t judge your salmon by its color.
When buying salmon to cook at home, don’t be fooled by its color. Some species, like Alaskan Chinook, are naturally redder than others because their diet is full of crustaceans, while other varieties can be a light grayish pink. But, unfortunately, some farm-raised salmon also have that magnificent Alaskan Chinook red color because they’re given color-enhanced feed. So instead of focusing on color, make sure the fish smells clean. Check that the flesh is firm and bounces back to shape when lightly pressed. When buying a whole salmon, the eyes should be bright and clear and the skin should have an abundance of shiny scales.

Purchase fish the same day you plan to eat it.
Ideally, you should cook your salmon the same day you purchase it, but that’s not always possible. If need be, refrigerate as is for two days: rinse with cold water, pat dry and wrap tightly with plastic. Above all else, handle your fish delicately and keep it cold, right around 32°F.

You don’t need a recipe.
There’s nothing better than simply grilling a nice piece of salmon: place fish on aluminum foil, lightly brush each piece with a combination of canola and olive oils, salt and pepper to taste, grill hot for about eight minutes for a one-inch-thick, three- to four-ounce serving. Another excellent and easy preparation method is to use cedar planks in the oven. Same basic preparation as you would for grilling; cook at 375°F for 10–15 minutes. Be sure to always cook salmon skin-side down. Note: You can buy cedar planks just about anywhere and they can be reused. Just be sure to soak the planks before use according to the package directions.

To read more about the Copper River and the different species of salmon, checkout this article I posted last year, at the opening of the 2017 season. Just note that data is specific to the references year(s). Coming up next week on the blog, a guide to purchasing and preparing shellfish. All photos courtesy of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

DISCLAIMER: I’m a writer and an editor. And I try my best to make sure every post is articulate and free from errors. However, being that I edit my own work—and it’s next to impossible to properly edit your own work—I admit, occasionally there may be an error or two I miss. But doing so doesn’t make me an idiot so don’t be mean. Just smile, pat yourself on the back for finding an error and be glad you’re not the only one who makes mistakes sometimes … yes, even mermaids slip up every now and then. xoxox

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