When it Comes to Wild Salmon, Here's Why Frozen is Usually Better than "Fresh"


Demystifying the Process of How Quality Fish Ultimately Makes it to Your Table

There’s no getting around the fact that the most optimal way to eat wild salmon is fresh off a catch, reclined comfortably by a fireplace with a view of the chilly, windswept coastline. However, if you don’t live in salmon fishing territory, this wild salmon scenario is simply a fantasy that you’ll one day have to fulfill through a pilgrimage to Alaska. Until then, here’s why frozen salmon beats fresh salmon any day.

Frozen Is Not a Bad Word

When you’re at the fish counter looking for a fillet of wild salmon, you can bet the fish sitting on a bed of ice labeled as “fresh” is in fact a thawed, frozen fish. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

However, if your fishmonger insists that you’re looking at a piece of fresh salmon that has never been frozen, be very skeptical. Unless that fillet of “fresh” salmon was airlifted overnight from the fisherman as a special offering (in which case, it’s likely going to cost you way more than you’re used to paying for salmon), it ought to have been frozen shortly after being harvested from its waters to preserve it at the peak of its freshness.

By the way, this technique is not limited to salmon. For example, good quality shrimp, unless sold off the Gulf coast the day it’s caught, is also best when frozen shortly after being harvested.

So ask your fishmonger for salmon that’s only been frozen once, and then thawed to be sold that day to a customer. Wild salmon that has been sitting out or has been frozen and then thawed, refrozen and re-thawed (again and again and again...) is going to be poorer quality than fresh salmon that has been promptly frozen just once, and then thawed shortly before it’s laid out.

The Merits of Frozen Salmon

While the idea of getting fresh fish flown in from Alaska and dropped off on your dinner table sounds like the next best thing to eating it in Alaska, this is simply not the case. The clock starts ticking as soon as the wild salmon is lifted from the water and bled. At that point, each minute that passes contributes to a diminishing return of quality on the catch. Freezing a fresh fish shortly after it’s caught is the only way to essentially lock in all the fresh goodness that wild salmon has to offer.

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What to Do with Frozen Fish

Take it out from the freezer and leave it wrapped in its plastic packaging to gently thaw overnight in your refrigerator — about eight to ten hours, depending on the thickness of the cut. Store it on a shallow dish to catch any liquid that melts off the packaging.

If you’re in a bind and need thawed fish fast, try this shortcut: Remove your frozen salmon from its plastic packaging and transfer it to a zip-top bag; that way, you can be sure there won’t be any leaks. Next, submerge the bag in a bowl filled with cold water, changing out the water every so often so that it stays below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for food safety’s sake. And forty-five minutes later, voilà! Your salmon is thawed.

Then, get that fish in a pan or on a grill and make yourself a clean, delicious and protein-forward meal, knowing that this is as fresh as it gets… at least until that trip to Alaska finally happens.

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