3 Common Myths About Buying Salmon You Need to Know

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: The Woks of Life)

For many, salmon is the go-to choice when picking fish to buy for dinner. It’s not only a crowd-pleaser, but it’s also pretty easy to prepare for a weeknight or dress up for company. So given its popularity, it would seem that it would be effortless to shop for, right? Not exactly.

Whether it’s sustainability, flavor, or nutrition, buying salmon is just one of the many places where you can make a decision about what matters to you, and there are plenty of myths circulating regarding just how to do that. So if understanding how to buy quality salmon is something that’s important to you, here’s exactly what you need to know.

Myth #1: Wild Salmon Is Always Better for the Environment

If you’re concerned about the sustainability of the salmon you’re eating, you may have heard that wild salmon is the better choice. The truth is that the answer isn’t always clear.

Your best bet is to talk with your fishmonger and ask if the salmon you’re buying comes from a sustainable source. Think of him or her as your butcher for fish; they’re there to answer your questions and provide guidance. You can also look for a Marine Stewardship Council-certified label. Another resource is Monterey Bay Aquarium, whose website and iPhone app outlines the best possible salmon choices.

Myth #2: Color Is the Best Indicator of Quality

If flavor and nutrition are what matter to you, you may have been told that the deeper pink the flesh is, the better. Not true. Different varieties range in color — Sockeye is deep red, while Coho is pale pink. All are flavorful and good for you. Instead, it’s more important to focus on the overall look of the fish. It should look as fresh as possible. That means no brown spots on the flesh and no bruising on the skin. The flesh should be firm and look smooth and glossy, without any slits or holes.

The salmon you’re buying shouldn’t smell fishy or sour. Instead, it really should only have a faint aroma of the ocean — fresh and a little salty. If you’re buying fresh fish, look to your fishmonger to direct you to what’s the most flavorful, highest-quality salmon of the day.

Myth #3: Fresh Always Tastes Better than Frozen

This is another instance where there may be an assumption dominating some of our choices. Isn’t fresh always going to taste better? Not necessarily. If it comes from a well-regarded source, frozen is just as good as fresh, as it’s flash-frozen either right at sea or immediately back at the dock to preserve its freshness. Again, buy from a trusted fishmonger or brand and look out for a Marine Stewardship Council-certified label. Also check the packaging — the fish should be frozen solid and there should be no signs of freezer burn.

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