Everything You Need to Know About Wild Salmon by Alyn Williams

Salmon isn’t just salmon…

Out of seven salmon species worldwide, Alaska harvests five…

1. Coho

2. Keta

3. Pink

4. Sockeye

5. King

The ‘salmon colour’ is not always the same…

King salmon is the largest and most prized of the species, it has a lovely oiliness and is glossy deep pink when raw and vibrant pink when cooked.

Coho is the second largest of the species, it has a more orange/pink colour both when raw and cooked.

Keta has a less oily flesh than the first two making it less glossy, it is a nice pink when raw and a light rose colour when cooked.

Sockeye is the densest, darkest of the species, it is a solid red colour both raw and cooked.

Pink is the smallest, most delicate of the species. Much like sea trout. It is a glossy oily pink when raw and is a nice delicate pink when cooked.

Because all Alaska salmon is wild, the colour is varies with the diet of the fish during it’s life cycle. Meaning that a king salmon, pink or keta can have quite deep coloured flesh. But it’s also possible to be almost white.

There is a difference between wild and farmed salmon…

…and it’s to do with the sheer distances wild salmon covers before returning to it’s birth place. Wild salmon tends to be a leaner and fitter fish.

The life of each salmon varies in age, style and migration from a one year long cycle up to anything like five or six years. King, coho and pink all have higher residual fat contents in the flesh, which make them more oily and succulent.

Keta and especially sockeye have little fat content throughout the flesh making them great for curing and smoking. 

It cooks quicker than you think…

The cooking time depends on the size of the fish and how you are cooking it. By rule of thumb if you are cooking under the grill or on a barbeque a 4cm thick, skinless piece of salmon will need approximately 4 minutes on each side.

Baking in the oven, you should work on a temperature of 170°c for a fan oven and 185°c for a static oven. Lightly oil and season, cook in the middle of the oven for 8-10 minutes. 

It can be cooked in a number of different ways…

Salmon is super versatile and can be cooked in a lot of ways.

Because they are drier, keta and sockeye salmon are great baked or cooked wrapped in pastry.

For me, king salmon is best eaten raw as sushi or sashimi. But is equally perfect cooked on the barbeque, poached or even braised.

Pink should be cooked quite quickly, on the barbie or under the grill.

All salmon should be treated a bit like red meat and rested for a few minutes before serving.

When things go wrong…

Everything is bad when its overcooked and salmon is no exception. It will dry out for sure. But not all is lost. It can be redeemed by making it into a pate, or blending with crème fraiche for a pancake filling.

Top three salmon dishes

I like my salmon served simply… I have more than three favourites, but these have made the cut:

-Sashimi of Alaskan king salmon, ginger vinegar and chilli soy

-Hot smoked Alaskan sockeye with new potatoes and horseradish crème fraiche

-Poached Alaskan coho Caesar salad