Being one of the most popular fishes recognised and consumed worldwide, it is wise or both the experienced chef and the home cook to be familiar with the different types of salmon to be able to purchase the best for a particular dish being prepared. Though salmon in general is an oily fish generally yielding moist ccoked meat, there may be significant nuances in texture and flavor for different kinds which is very significant for gourmet dishes. Of course, global availablitiy of these varieties also vary considerably with selected types being exported for international consumption.
For countries where it is widely available, caught or farmed, it is important to note that different species are called various local names in different areas. That is enough to confuse someone who wants to purchase a particular variety without knowing its local name. In this case, it may be better to have a local accompany you to the market to help.
When visiting large fish markets in countries where salmon is prevalent, you may come across a gamut of names chinook, coho, chum, keta, king, pink, red, silver, sockeye, sake and cherry which are the most commonly used names of the most popular varieties but all these vary according to local dialect. To simplify, one can classify the fish into two major groups – those caught in Atlantic and Pacific Waters.
In terms of processed salmon, most of those canned in the US are wild from the Pacific. Another common way salmon finds its way to the dinner tables of countries across the world is through smoking, a popular preparation method that can either be a hot or cold process.
Being quite a substantially sized fish(weighing over five to over 60 kilograms depending on variety) salmon is usually purchased by households in precut portions suitable for family preparation and consumption. Bigger establishments like hotels and restaurants which use more parts of the fish can purchase either whole salmon of large slabs which they cut on their own.
Whole salmon includes the head, skin and tail usually with the gills and other internal organs removed. A whole salmon can be prepared in a variety of ways for an impressive main course or dish. Fillet pertains to fish that is separated on both sides from the ribs and backbone yielding two portions of boneless meat. This can further be cut into smaller steak sized portions for grilling of pan frying. Whole fillets can be smoked whole or in small portions. Fillets expertly cut with all the skin and bones removed make for an impressive entrée simply garnished with a slice of lemon and flavored with a variety of herbs and spices. Large fish markets are more flexible in cutting up the fish while delis usually just weigh the amount needed. Salmon can also be cut through transversely through the backbone into steaks that are perfect for grilling. Even the large head of the fish as well as the fatty portion of the belly are used in soups and grills.