7 Secrets to Choosing the Best Salmon, According to Chefs

Stocking your fridge or freezer with salmon is a smart idea — the fish is packed with muscle-building protein, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, and metabolism-supporting minerals. Plus, there are so many ways to cook salmon that it’s hard to get bored. But choosing quality fish is just as important as how you cook it. The search for a delicious dinner starts at the grocery store.

With that in mind, we spoke to a handful of professional chefs to get their expert opinion on how to choose the best fresh stocked salmon when grocery shopping. Read on for the secret to picking the best salmon in the store — and for more secret life hacks, be sure to check out The Nutrition Secrets Of The World’s Longest Living People.


Don’t settle for wild or farmed fish

Wild vs farmed salmon raw fillets on parchment paper

Not sure if you want to spend more money on wild-caught salmon than farm-raised salmon? Larry WhiteChef and owner of Lo Lo’s Chicken & Waffles, Brunch & Sip, and Monroe’s Hot Chicken claims each offers unique benefits.

“Although farm-raised salmon is usually frowned upon, there are technologies that make it incredibly safe to eat,” says White Eat this, not that! “Farmed salmon is cheaper and a sustainable alternative to traditionally caught salmon. Both types retain certain nutrients. For example, farmed salmon has more fat, while wild salmon has more calcium, zinc, and potassium.”


The salmon flesh should be red

raw salmon

raw salmon

Color and moisture are great ways to tell if the salmon is fresh or not.

“The salmon shouldn’t have brown spots or any other discolored spots,” White explains. “The salmon should look anywhere from light pink to deep red. Avoid any salmon that looks pale.”


Salmon should not smell fishy

The chef checks that the salmon is fresh

The chef checks that the salmon is fresh

I know this could be a head scratcher – if you don’t want fresh salmon to smell fishy, ​​then how should it smell?

“Fish shouldn’t smell fishy. It should smell like the sea,” he says cook Hector DiazChef at La Grande Boucherie in New York City.

According to the FDA, if salmon smells fishy or sour, that’s a sign it’s gone rancid and isn’t safe to eat. This logic applies to both whole fish and fillets.


The texture should be firm

Person slicing fresh salmon with dill and lemon

Person slicing fresh salmon with dill and lemon

All of the chefs we’ve interviewed agree that squishy salmon is an absolute no-no.

“Always look for firmness when it comes to fresh salmon,” he says Chef George Jewell, executive chef at Clutch Restaurant in Atlanta. “Avoid mushy salmon — that’s a key indicator it’s not fresh.”

In addition to being firm, the skin of the salmon should be moist and smooth.

“When the fish is attracted [aka when the guts have been cleaned out and the tail, fins, head, and scales have all been removed]a finger movement across the stomach should feel moist,” says Diaz.


Get fresh salmon in season

The best place to get the freshest salmon is locally and in season.

“It’s best to buy wild salmon during the season, which typically lasts from May through September,” says Jewell. “Of course you can get wild salmon at other times – but if you can get it during this time, try to get frozen wild salmon. This is because frozen salmon is usually frozen and shipped immediately, allowing it to retain and retain its flavor [the most] Nutrient.”

“Although technologies like quick freezing help salmon lock in freshness and flavor, choosing locally sourced salmon will ensure you’re getting the freshest fish possible,” adds White.


Avoid freeze-burned salmon

frozen salmon

frozen salmon

When you go for frozen salmon, sometimes the packaging hides the fishy imperfections. Watch out for ice crystals and freezer burn on clear packaging.

“This shows that after thawing, the salmon has either been refrozen or is not of the best quality. Those are two things you want to avoid,” says Jewell.


The eyes should be shiny and the fins intact

raw salmon

raw salmon

For whole fish, make sure the eyes are clear and not shiny. According to Diaz, whitewashed eyes are a telltale sign that the fish has been sitting out a little too long. Diaz also suggests evaluating the fins on your whole fish, as they should be intact with no cracks.

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