All About Salmon

Salmon is generally described as rich and buttery with slightly sweet undertones. When cooked, the texture becomes smooth and moist with large meaty flakes, while raw salmon has a velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Variations between species, environment, diet, fat content, harvesting, and handling methods all contribute to a salmon’s nuanced flavors. Overall, salmon is valued for its versatility in pairing with many flavors and preparation methods.

How does Salmon get their color?

Salmon gets their pink to red-orange hues from their diets, which contain natural pigments called astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is vital for a salmon’s health, supporting its metabolic, muscle, and immune functions. Wild salmon eat astaxanthin-rich shellfish and krill, while farmed salmon receive astaxanthin as a natural ingredient in their feed for optimal health and color. A genetic condition prevents about 6% of king salmon from processing these astaxanthin pigments, resulting in white or ivory-colored salmon.

What are the 6 species of Salmon?

In total, there are eight species of salmon– one Atlantic salmon and seven Pacific salmon. Of these, two Pacific species are native to Asia and cannot be found in North American waters. Here are the North American 6:

Atlantic Salmon: The most common salmon species consumed around the world, accounting for over 90% of North America’s salmon consumption. The vast majority are farmed in Chile, Scotland, and Canada. Atlantic salmon average 6-12 pounds with silver sides. They have delicate, buttery flesh that cooks up moist and flaky. Their high-fat content makes them well-suited to cooking methods like grilling, broiling, baking, and poaching. Atlantic salmon is also the most popular species for sushi due to its high-fat content, mild taste, and affordability.

Chinook (King) Salmon: Are the largest species in the family, sometimes exceeding 40 pounds. They have blue-gray metallic scales, black spots on their back and tail, and black mouths. King salmon are abundant in the Pacific Ocean from California to Alaska. King salmon have a firm yet rich flesh, ranging in color from ivory to deep red. With the highest fat content among Pacific salmon and a full flavor profile, king salmon are stellar for grilling, smoking, roasting, and baking. King salmon are also popular for raw preparations like sashimi. These prized fish can be found both wild-caught and farm-raised.

Coho (Silver) Salmon: Also called silver salmon, they average 8-12 pounds and are identifiable by dark metallic blue scales and lighter silvery sides. These Pacific salmon are abundant on coasts from California to Alaska, with a small population in the Great Lakes. Coho salmon have bright orange-red flesh that cooks up firm, moist, and flavorful. Their moderate fat content and mild, nutty flavor make coho salmon perfect for pan-searing, grilling, poaching, and smoking. Traditionally wild species, some coho are now farm-raised as well.

Keta (Chum) Salmon: Often canned or smoked, keta salmon works well in burger patties, soups, chowders, and fish sticks. Keta salmon are exclusively wild fish migrating along the Pacific coast and inland waterways.  You won’t find them often at Joe’s.

Pink Salmon: The smallest salmon species at just 3-5 pounds, pink salmon have a pronounced hump on their back when spawning. Pink salmon are wild fish primarily caught in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Again, you won’t find them often at Joe’s.

Sockeye (Red) Salmon: They earn their name from their bright red-orange flesh, which comes from their krill-rich diet. They average 4-15 pounds and reach an intense scarlet hue when migrating upstream to spawn. Sockeye salmon are prized for their meaty flavor and silky texture when cooked. Their high oil content makes them well-suited to grilling, broiling, poaching, and roasting. Sockeyes are wild Pacific salmon mostly caught in Alaska and Canada.

What’s better Wild or Farmed Salmon?

Both wild-caught and farmed salmon are excellent choices for shoppers when purchased from a trusted source like Joe’s. Here are some key differences between wild-caught and farmed salmon:

Wild-Caught Salmon: These salmon migrate long distances in the ocean and spawn in freshwater. Because of their active nature, wild salmon have a leaner body composition with a more pronounced meaty flavor than farm-raised salmon. They generally have a higher omega-3 fatty acid content than farmed salmon. Fresh wild salmon is typically available between late spring and fall, and frozen wild salmon is available year-round.

Farmed Salmon: Like any other fish, the flavors of farmed salmon are a result of their habitat and feed. Because they are fed on controlled diets and do not roam as far as wild salmon, farmed salmon have a higher fat content with a milder, buttery flavor. Farming practices allow these salmon to be available fresh and frozen year-round.

Is Joe’s Salmon sustainable?

Salmon is among the most regulated proteins in the US and a sustainable option if purchased from a trusted supplier.

Wild Salmon Sustainability: Most major stocks like Alaskan salmon are healthy options thanks to rigorous management by state and federal agencies. These fishing regulations prevent overfishing for salmon by setting limits on the number of fish that can be caught each year and the minimum sizes of the fish that can be caught. Continued efforts to preserve salmon spawning habitats and the help of salmon hatcheries ensure healthy wild populations for years to come.

Farmed Salmon Sustainability: With responsible practices, farmed salmon can be a sustainable way to meet demand while reducing pressure on limited wild stocks for species like Atlantic salmon. We believe responsibly managed farms committed to sustainability practices, fish welfare, and transparency are part of the solution for providing healthy, delicious salmon while protecting wild stocks. There have been significant industry-wide improvements in recent years that have made salmon farming more sustainable. Innovations like efficient diets without chemicals or antibiotics reduce the salmon’s footprint and improve meat quality. Advances in water filtration for land-based fish farming reduce farm waste from polluting the ocean while allowing up to 99% of water to be recirculated. At Joe’s we proudly source our farmed salmon exclusively from producers focused on ethical, eco-friendly aquaculture innovations and full traceability from egg to harvest.

What are Copper River Salmon?

Copper River salmon refers to the prized catches of wild king and sockeye salmon from the Copper River in Alaska. Every spring and summer, these salmon undergo a miraculous 300-mile upstream migration from the ocean to the glacier-fed waters of the Copper River to spawn. These Copper River salmon fatten up with extra food to stay fueled throughout their remarkable journeys, creating an exceptionally rich yet earthy flavor profile. This distinguishable taste, as well as their short fishing season, make Copper River salmon a highly coveted fish.

How are Salmon and Trout different?

Both members of the Salmonidae family, making them difficult to differentiate.

Size: Salmon are generally much larger, averaging 8-12 pounds. Trout, however, rarely exceeds 5 pounds.

Habitat: Salmon are born in freshwater, migrate to the ocean to feed and grow, and return to freshwater to spawn. Trout species are mostly freshwater only, with the exception of steelhead and cutthroat trout, which are sea-run like salmon.

Appearance: Salmon has a more pronounced silvery sheen on their scales and skin compared to the rainbow or brown hues of many trout.

Taste: Salmon has a richer, oilier taste than trout due to their higher fat content. Trout are typically leaner than salmon, with a milder flavor.

Is Steelhead Trout or Salmon?

Steelhead trout are not salmon because they are separate species. Steelhead trout are a subspecies of rainbow trout, which is not salmon. Steelhead trout typically spend 2-3 years in freshwater before migrating to the ocean, while salmon usually spend 1-2 years in freshwater before migrating to the ocean.

Can you eat Salmon skin?

Yes, you can absolutely eat salmon skin! Although it is often discarded as a matter of personal preference, salmon skin is perfectly safe, delicious, and nutritious to eat. The skin contains healthy fats, protein, and much of the salmon's vitamin D content. When cooked properly, salmon skin crisps up beautifully to provide textural contrast to the tender salmon flesh. Salmon skin develops a wonderfully savory, umami-rich flavor when cooked.