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Salmon is one of those foods that we know is good for our brain or our blood pressure or whatever, but we’re not totally sure why or how often we need it. Plus, are the only two ways to cook it roasting and grilling? Maybe sushi too? If you’re puzzling over salmon — or even if this is the first time you’re really thinking about it at all — we can help.

What’s so great about it anyway?

Salmon is pretty great for overall health, but this fish’s biggest claim to fame is it’s omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is an “essential fatty acid,” meaning your body doesn’t produce it on its own so you need to get them from your diet. In general, Canadians aren’t getting anywhere near enough omega-3 and salmon is a great source of it.

Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D, another nutrient that people generally don’t get enough of. Overall, the nutrients found in salmon help boost the immune system, brain development and nerve, bone and eye function. It’s also an anti-inflammatory food.

We should be eating the pink fish a couple times a week for the best chance at getting all your nutrients.

How do you pick the best stuff?

So you’re planning on buying some salmon and you don’t know where to start. You could always buy it pre-frozen if you’re just starting out and a little nervous about that whole “fishy smell” thing. If you’re buying fresh, you really want to make sure that its fresh. Most grocery stores will only get fish shipments one or two times a week, so find out what day of the week that is at your local place and buy your fish then.

To make it last longer, you can freeze the fish yourself as long as you do it as soon as you get it. Either use a vacuum sealer or store it in a plastic bag with as little air in it as possible. The less air in the package, the fresher the fish will stay and the longer it will keep in the freezer.

Why does it look like that?

Good question. If you’re looking at all that fresh fish, you might notice that some salmon is a deep red while other kinds are much lighter. The colour of the fish is dependent on the animal’s diet when it was alive. Salmon typically eat shrimp and krill which contribute to the fish’s red/pink pigmentation. Different combinations in the fish’s diet will yield different colours.

Another thing that might look a little freaky when you’re cooking salmon is those weird white fatty-looking deposits that form on the outside of a filet. It might look unappetizing, but that white stuff is harmless and totally normal. That white gunk is coagulated protein called albumin (different from “albumen” which is the white part of an egg) which gets pushed out of the muscle fibers as the fish cooks. You can eat it, but if you don’t want albumin on your fish for aesthetic purposes, America’s Test Kitchen says that soaking your fish in a brine solution for 10 minutes before you cook it will minimize it.

Am I cooking this right?

In general, people tend to overcook salmon because they’re afraid of under-cooking it. Your standard piece of salmon really only needs to cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Anything more than that is probably just drying it out. If you’re that concerned about not cooking it through, wrap it in parchment or tin foil to cook so that the juices stay contained and your fish is less likely to dry out.

If you’re really adventurous and buy a large slab of salmon, you should cut it into smaller equal-sized portions before cooking it. Otherwise, the edges will end up completely drying out before the inside is cooked through.

I’m tired of baked salmon. Now what?

If you’re a good little health nut who eats their salmon twice a week as instructed, you might be a little bored with it. Food fatigue happens to the best of us, but salmon is way more versatile than a lot of us give it credit for. If you’re so over roasted or grilled salmon and rice, consider mixing it up with salmon skewers, salmon burgerssalmon cakes or even salmon meatballs (which can go on pretty much anything). Salmon is a fairly hearty fish so you can also substitute it in as the protein on dishes where you would typically use chicken or shrimp. Flake it into pasta or even use pieces of it in curries and stir-fries. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Now go forth and get that omega-3.