I enjoy fresh, delicious wild salmon, and I can’t stand the fishy smell of most salmon sold in stores. Salmon is loaded with healthy, long-chain omega-3 fats and protein. Yet, these fats are very delicate and easily damaged. Not only do rancid omega-3 fats taste awful, but they are dangerous to your health.
Tip #1: Buy fresh wild salmon. It seems silly to say this, but most stores call their salmon “fresh” if it hasn’t been frozen, even if it was caught 1-2 weeks ago. Clearly after a few days on ice, the salmon is no longer fresh. A whole salmon should have plump, clear, shiny eyes. The skin should be shiny and moist, and if filleted, the meat should be plump without wrinkles and look firm. If the eyes are dried out and the flesh looks cracked, mushy, or dried,,,, move on. If it looks good, before they wrap it up in paper, ask to smell it. It should smell fresh, not fishy. Fishy smelling salmon won’t taste good no matter what you do with it.
The reality is you can only find fresh wild salmon 3-4 months of the year, so for the rest of the year, you need a back up plan.
Tip #2: If you can’t find “fresh” wild salmon, buy vacuum-packed, frozen wild salmon. Vacuum-packed salmon is usually much less expensive, and “if” it was vacuum-packed and flash frozen, it will taste fresh for at least six months. The salmon I defrost in January from my annual fishing trip in July, usually tastes much better than the “fresh” farmed salmon they sell in the grocery store. The challenge is finding a company that will vacuum-pack and flash freeze their catch. A good source is Vital Choice.
Tip #3: Marinate your salmon in an acidic, salty solution before cooking, such as orange juice. In fact, I marinate most of the seafood I buy in salty orange juice before cooking it. First rinse the fish in fresh water, then add one teaspoon of sea salt to 1 cup of orange juice and marinate it for 10-20 minutes before cooking. I gently rinse and pat it dry with paper towels before I add seasoning. The acidity sears the outer flesh, maintaining the moisture, and it decreases the formation of harmful heterocyclic amines (carcinogens formed with grilling) by up to 80%. The orange juice also washes the occasional frozen slime coating on frozen fish and leaves it with a sweeter, fresher taste.
Tip #4: Add spices and herbs with your salmon. When I catch salmon and eat it that same day, I add maybe a touch of salt that is it—it is awesome. But the truth is that most salmon wasn’t caught the same day and it tastes better if I cook it with herbs. I like to stimulate at least 3-4 taste bud centers, and sometimes all five. I enjoy experimenting with various combinations of dill, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, salt, lemon, lemon rind, ginger, and garlic. Try the Grilled Salmon recipe below as an example.
Tip #5: If your taste buds are highly sensitive to fishy fats, then pick salmon with less fat content. Pink salmon has much less fat content than say silver or king salmon, and it can be great in a salmon spread. See below. For a great source of canned pink salmon, I like Vital Choice.
Below are a couple of my favorite salmon recipes, adapted from my 30-Day Heart Tune-Up cookbook. Enjoy!
Salmon Spread (Quick & Easy)
A better option to a tuna spread is this healthier version which is delicious on sandwiches, in pita bread, or served with a tossed salad.
PREPARATION TIME: 5 MINUTES SERVES: 2
6 ounce Canned salmon (I prefer wild Alaska pink or red salmon)
2 medium Green onions, diced
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp Hummus
1 Tbsp Capers
1 tsp Lemon juice
1 medium Celery stalk, diced
Optional Hot sauce to taste
Flake salmon. Mix with the remaining ingredients and serve.
Grilled Salmon with Lemon, Chili, Brown Sugar and Dill
Voila, my favorite grilled salmon recipe. I grew up salmon fishing with my Dad, and I now take my sons salmon fishing most summers. Even guests who normally shy away from salmon have enjoyed this recipe. All of their taste buds (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami) are stimulated at once!
Preparation Time: 10 minutes MARINADE TIME: 15 MINUTES cooking time: 8-10 minutes Serves: 4
1.5 pounds Salmon (preferably wild Alaska Coho or other wild species)
1 cup Orange juice
1 medium Lemon
1/2 tsp Sea salt
¼ tsp Ground black pepper
½ tsp Paprika
¼ tsp Cayenne pepper (1/8 to ¼ tsp, to taste)
1 tsp Brown sugar
1 tsp Dill weed, dried (or ¼ cup fresh dill weed, cut into 1-inch strands)
Rinse salmon fillets in cold water. Marinate in orange juice for 15 minutes. Pre-heat grill to 450 degrees (F), or set oven to broil. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
Sprinkle lemon juice over fillets. Combine salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, sugar, and dill weed and sprinkle over the salmon.
Transfer salmon fillets to the grill. For a 1-inch thick fillet, grill about 8-10 minutes total, 4-5 minutes per side (for thinner fillets, use less time). The timing will be similar if you use the top rack of your oven broiler.
Serve with lemon wedges and garnish with fresh dill weed.
Hope you enjoy the recipes!
To Your Health!
Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, FAAFP, CNS