Product cuttings: Buying salmon

Despite its popularity on restaurant menus, salmon can be tricky to purchase. Wild varieties are numerous and varied and farmed fish can be sourced from countries and facilities with very different standards. Aside from price and availability, what impacts your choices? Bret Lynch, corporate chef for Ocean Beauty, a large Seattle salmon supplier, provides guidance and leads us through a product cutting.

  1. Unpack fish and notice appearance and aroma. If the fish is fresh, it should be free of internal ice crystals and have a light seaweed scent.
  2. With whole fish, note that the eyes are clear and bright. For farmed salmon, “make sure the noses are not squashed or bent,” adds Michael LaScola, chef-owner of American Seasons in Nantucket. “This indicates that they’ve been crammed into pens.”
  3. For fillets or whole fish, look for shiny skin free of scars, indentations and scrapes. The flesh should be resilient when pressed lightly.
  4. Flesh color varies by species and region, from bright pink to orange and red. All varieties should be uniform in color and texture with no gaps or separations in the flesh.
  5. Check that you receive the species specified; these are the most common.

•King or Chinook salmon is the largest and top-quality variety. It’s distinguished by rosy color, succulent flesh and high oil content

•Sockeye has the deepest red color and a rich flavor; average market weight is four to ten pounds.

•Coho or silver salmon has orange-red flesh and a more delicate flavor. It’s slightly larger than a sockeye and often sold frozen or smoked.

•Pink or humpback salmon is the smallest Pacific species. It’s characterized by lighter-colored flesh and milder flavor; least expensive of the wild varieties.

•Chum or keta salmon is orange-pink in color and firmly textured with an average weight of eight pounds; second most abundant species.

•Atlantic or farmed salmon is the most abundant species. Flesh ranges from pink to orange with broad white fat lines between layers of muscle tissue. Average weight is seven to 12 pounds.


Salmon: Farmed vs. Wild

Farmed salmon 

Pros
•Ability to scale production to meet market demand
•Uniform size for portioning
•Consistency
•Oily texture

Cons
•Lack of variety (price, appearance, size, eating quality)
•Supplier consolidation
•Feed supply concerns
•Environmental impact

Wild salmon

Pros
•Product variety (common Alaskan species include king, sockeye, coho, pink and chum)
•Sustainability message
•Bolder flavor and meatier texture

Cons
•Fresh availability largely limited to summer
•Isolated run disruptions
•Often only “twice-frozen” is available

Buying value-added frozen fillets

Using mild-tasting, sustainably farmed tilapia as a base, Owen Tilley, corporate chef of Fishery Products International, creates a range of products with on-trend flavor profiles, such as smoky Southwestern and wasabi pea and miso. The latest are IQF Pan-Sear Selects, tilapia fillets that are processed with a proprietary coating that allows the fish to be sauteed, grilled, griddled or baked. Here are his product cutting guidelines.

  1. Open the shipping carton and take the temperature to insure proper refrigeration has been maintained. “Off the truck” IQF fillets should register 25°F or below.
  2. Weigh the fillet. It should fall within the weight range provided on the spec sheet that accompanies the shipment.
  3. Visually inspect fillets for signs of dehydration and noticeable voids in flavor coating.
  4. Read package instructions for cooking and storage. Follow directions explicitly and calibrate your cooking equipment before preparation. When checking cooking time, consider how long it will take the product to reach guests and let the fillet rest accordingly.
  5. Taste the cooked fillet. Evaluate for appearance, aroma, flavor and texture.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
sriracha bottles

Generally, I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions. They tend to be grandiose and unrealistic—and why not just resolve to start doing/not doing that thing you’re not doing/doing right away instead of going hog wild until Jan. 1? (New Year’s Day also is my birthday, and if you can’t eat at your favorite Thai restaurant and sip bubbly then, well, when can you?)

I do, however, enjoy the raucous singing of “Auld Lang Syne” to ring in the new year, though I’ve never been quite sure whether you’re supposed to be remembering the year fondly or happily putting it out of mind. While I...

Managing Your Business
briggo coffee haus kiosk

Though diners’ appetites for coffee are seemingly bottomless, adding a full-service coffee shop to every corner of a facility probably isn’t in the playbook. Here’s a look at how two operators added coffee service with relatively small footprints—with one decidedly futuristic (robot barista, anyone?), and the other low-tech but nimble.

Specialty coffee vending at Dell

Dell has a full-service Starbucks on its Red Rock, Texas, campus, but the location isn’t always convenient for a quick coffee pickup. “Certain times, you go into the bistro, like 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., there’s quite a long...

Ideas and Innovation
baked bread

Instead of sourcing value-added product to reduce labor, the food and nutrition team at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison outsources its baked goods to a local shop that hires only formerly incarcerated workers. The bakery was able to hire two new former inmates in order to keep up with the volume needs of the hospital. “We want to be really entrenched in the community, not just have a building that sits in the center of Madison,” says Amy Mihm, clinical nutrition specialist for the hospital.

Managing Your Business
food symbols allergens

Bellevue School District in King County, Wash., has reduced the instances of life-threatening allergic reactions by 94% since 2013. Wendy Weyer, business manager for nutrition services, says that success stems from direct communication with the district’s 20,000 students.

Q: What was the first thing you did to start reducing allergic reactions?

A: More than five years ago, we changed our menu signage to provide information to students on what the common allergens were on all the foods that were served at every station. We use symbols such as an egg or a wheat stalk for younger...

FSD Resources