Salmon Basics

Salmon is an excellent source of protein, B-vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Which one to choose? There’s a reason they call it King Salmon – it’s at the top in quality. Sockeye and Silver are great tasting, too, and provide a more affordable option.  Chum and Pink salmons are the best for smoking. Here are some specifics at a glance:

King Salmon (aka Chinook)

  • Largest of the salmon species (10-50 pounds typically, although the commercial-caught record is 126 pounds)
  • Highest oil content (what gives a salmon its rich flavor)
  • Black spots on its tail and the upper half of its body

Sockeye Salmon (aka Red Salmon)

  • The slimmest salmon (weigh up to 7 pounds)
  • Valued for high oil content and ability to hold their bright red color
  • Sockeye populations that remain in landlocked lakes are called “Kokanee” Salmon

Silver Salmon (aka Coho)

  • Middle weight (up to 15 pounds)
  • Most popular among game fishers
  • Known for orange-red flesh, superior texture and excellent eye appeal

Chum Salmon (aka Keta)

  • 6 – 12 pounds
  • Milder flavored and more lean than Silver, Sockeye and King Salmon, but it still has enough firmness and oil content to lend itself to a wide variety of cooking applications
  • Light pink to orange-colored flesh

Steaks vs. Fillets

  • Steaks are cross-sections of the fish; great on the grill because they hold together well
  • Fillets are cut from the side of the fish; offer plenty of crisp skin, which many people enjoy – fillets often contain small “pin” bones. To see how to remove them, see our Culinary How-To video on the topic!


  • To refrigerate, wrap in plastic wrap, put in a plastic bag and place in a colander of ice, which is set in a bowl, in the fridge
  • To freeze, wrap tightly in several layers of plastic wrap, place in freezer bag and into the freezer for up to two months; defrost in the refrigerator before cooking

 Note:  It’s best to cook your salmon the day you buy it, but it will hold for a day or two