Fresh salmon is widely available year-round, as are canned and smoked varieties. If you are lucky, you will find my personal favorite Copper River salmon in your market, usually in spring. It is prized for its flavor, color, and firm, yet tender flesh. It is essential to know the details of proper salmon storage to protect your investment.
Fresh salmon can be purchased whole, fileted (skinless or skin-on), and in steaks. Filets are the easiest to work with, and I prefer skin-on filets. There is a microscopic thin layer of fat between the skin and the meat which melts during the cooking process. This makes it easy to separate the meat from the skin simply by lifting with a spatula. Cooking with the skin on helps keep the fish moist. Most markets will have already removed the pin-bones from filets. If not, use a pair of needlenose pliers or tweezers to pull them out for a bone-free filet.
Salmon steaks make for a pretty presentation on the plate in a convenient single serving. However, they contain quite a few bones which can make eating a chore. Keep this in mind when selecting your cut of salmon.
When choosing fresh salmon, look for a bright pink to red color with firm flesh. It should have a fresh ocean smell, not a foul, fishy aroma. Mushy flesh is an indication of age and/or improper handling. Fresh salmon should be consumed as soon as possible, within 24 to 48 hours or frozen up to three months.
Keep in mind that seafood begins to deteriorate as soon as it leaves the water, and it’s probably already been at your local grocery store for a day or two, so get it home and cold as soon as possible.
The fish may be frozen in a container or sealable bag with enough water to surround the fish to avoid drying out in the freezer. Plan in advance so the fish can thaw in the refrigerator before cooking.
There is another good reason why lemon is often used with fish other than the obvious flavor enhancement: The acid helps kill bacteria.
Canned Salmon Storage and Usage
Sockeye is the preferred type of salmon for canning due to its firm colorful flesh. Canned salmon may be stored for a year at temperatures under 72 degrees F. Take care to check the expiration date on the can. Some markets are not so diligent about rotating stock.
Opened canned salmon may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to five days. Canned salmon may also be frozen in a tightly-sealed container with all air removed for up to three months.
Salmon Cooking Tips
• Salmon’s beautiful pink color dresses up any plate, no matter how simply or complicated it is prepared.
• Salmon is excellent for just about any cooking method, including baked, broiled, poached, sauteed, grilled, barbecued and smoked.
• Some varieties of smoked or dried salmon may need to be soaked to remove excess salt before using.
• Over-cooked salmon becomes dry and unpalatable. Cook only until it feels firm when pressed lightly with the back of a fork. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
• Leftover salmon is great in salads and cream sauces for pasta, so make double the amount you need for dinner and use it the next day as well.
• Canned salmon may be substituted for canned tuna in most recipes, resulting in a richer, more colorful dish.
• Salmon is high in Vitamin A, B-complex, and Omega-3 oils, making it a very nutritious choice.