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Learn how to cook salmon with ease. Read on for tips on pan-frying, poaching, baking and barbecuing salmon to perfection.
Salmon in brief
Not only is salmon delicious, but it's also good for you! Heart-healthy salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids, plenty of protein and an abundance of vitamins, including B vitamins, and the antioxidant, vitamin E.
Fresh salmon should never smell fishy. The flesh should be bright and moist and not discoloured along the edges. If you're buying a whole salmon, its eyes should be bright and clear; the skin, silvery and shiny, and resilient to the touch.
Salmon is best enjoyed the same day you buy it. But it will keep for a day or two tightly wrapped in cling film and stored in the coldest part of the fridge.
Freeze raw salmon for up to 6 months. To thaw, take it from freezer to fridge the night before cooking. If time is an issue, submerge fillets in a bowl of cool water, changing the water periodically; frozen fillets should thaw in an hour or two.
Wild or farmed?
Wild salmon is a preferable choice if it comes from a sustainable source. Unfortunately, Atlantic salmon populations have been in decline for decades and are not considered sustainable. Pacific salmon populations are currently faring much better, and wild Alaskan salmon is considered a 'Best Choice' by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Farmed salmon has three obvious advantages over wild salmon: it's available year round, it's less expensive and the supply is plentiful.
However, there is a downside to a large-scale industrial system that packs fish into cramped saltwater pens like feedlots of the sea. Farmed salmon are given pesticides and antibiotics to protect them against the diseases that come from living in such close quarters. Salmon sometimes slip their confines, escaping into the ocean to mingle with wild salmon, corrupting the gene pool and introducing wild salmon to vigorous strains of diseases with which their immune systems cannot cope. Waste and feed problems can also lead to fish and water contamination.
Of course, not all aquaculture systems are alike, and there are many producers of farmed salmon who impose strict standards to ensure that they are raising salmon in a way that protects the salmon, environment and consumer alike. Ask your fishmonger for information about the fish-farming practices of the salmon available in your market, or look for MSC labelled salmon in your supermarket.