High in protein, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is a healthy and delicious seafood superstar. Its great for our overall health, brain health, and even recommended for expecting moms. Therefore, salmon is a staple in most homes. Of course never frozen salmon is the best and tastiest salmon. However, if you’re hoping to eat salmon regularly, and don’t live nearby access to fresh salmon, or don’t have time to go to the store regularly, you may want to buy and store it. Storing and freezing salmon can allow you to enjoy salmon for longer and be able to enjoy it anytime you want. Fortunately, salmon can be stored frozen for up to three months or even longer, but you have to freeze it properly to keep it in best condition!

How to choose salmon, the different salmon types, how store and thaw salmon are all covered here. Make sure to check it out, and start choosing, storing and serving salmon as it ought to be. This is real super food, and its best we are used to handling it!


How to choose good salmon

These are the best tips on how to choose good salmon, and also how to tell if the salmon on offer had gone bad!


First, when smelling the salmon, you shouldn’t really smell much of anything and definitely not a “fish” smell. You’ must only smell the salty ocean breeze nothing more.


Press down on the flesh lightly. If it springs back, it is safe to eat. But, if the flesh stays dimpled, stay away from it. Do not eat salmon with fragile texture. Do not eat soggy frozen salmon.


Let’s face it, if it looks bad, then it’s probably gone bad. Fresh farmed salmon should have a link pink color to it, while wild-caught salmon should be dark pink. If the fish has any gray blemishes or brown spots/ areas, then it’s not that fresh and you are better off avoiding it. Also avoid the ones where the skin has started browning and curling up. Avoid bruised skin or  “gaping” where flakes at the cut edges of the fish begin to separate from each other.

If you’re buying the whole salmon, the eyes should look plump, shiny, and clear. Trust your instincts on this one! When assessing the freshness of fish you must look at it carefully. Go for salmon that appears moist rather than dried out, since the moisture content is a great indicator of freshness and handling. Opt for vibrantly colored flesh, from deep shades of red to vibrant coral to bright pink. Pale fish is a no-go! Remember, bright hues mean fresh fish. That said…


Fresh isn’t always the only way

Don’t assume that fresh is always better than frozen fish. As, plenty of fresh fish has been put on ice on the boats right after they are caught to preserve their freshness. Also the new vacuum-packing technology has boosted the quality of frozen fish. In short, don’t be afraid of the frozen stuff if you trust the source. Mind you, you’ll definitely be eating previously frozen salmon if you want to eat wild salmon outside of its May-October season!

That said, frozen fish can be difficult to buy. A frozen salmon fillet should not look thawed or have freezer burn. If there are ice crystals stuck to the wrapping of the fish, it means that it has been warmed up in between freezing times. You don’t want to choose salmon that has been thawed because it would have lost a lot of moisture and nutrients. Freezer burn (which comes from the fish being flash-frozen) is the other detail to avoid. Frozen salmon that has suffered from it will have its flesh around the edges visibly dry and a lighter color than usual.


Don’t automatically fear farmed salmon

Do a quick Google search for “farmed salmon”, you’ll probably come across all sorts of cautionary tales about genetically modified fish and over-crowded breeding tanks. It is true!There’s a lot of questionable fish farming taking place around the world. However, when produced under responsible circumstances, farmed salmon can be a low-cost, sustainably sourced alternative to wild-caught salmon. Whether or not you should buy farmed salmon really boils down to where you’re buying it from and how strict their sourcing standards are. 

It is important to go to trusted farms/brands here as some salmon farming companies add colorant to their salmon in order to make it have a more attractive, classic, pink look instead of the grayer tone that some of them would have. Why? Because a lot of farmed salmon actually have grayish meat, thanks to being fed with oil content, soybeans, corn gluten, ground-up feathers, and chicken fat. This type of salmon is usually not of premium quality, so if the label indicates that the fish has been colored, give it a pass and look for another one.


Now that you’ve chosen the freshest salmon out there, it’s time to learn how to store it properly! 

That starts with your ride home. So bring a cooler with ice to the grocery store. You might be lucky enough to live super close to your grocery store, but if not, the ride home can make your fish less fresh. If you have a busy ride home or expect some heavy traffic, it’s a cooler can be your best friend. Bring the cooler in your trunk to the store. After you’re done shopping, just place the fresh salmon inside. This will prevent it from spoiling or losing moisture on the way back home. Also, keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be a large cooler. A simple lunch box-style cooler will do! NEVER LEAVE SALMON UNREFRIGERATED FOR MORE THAN TWO HOURS. Salmon can only last up to two hours at room temperature before it starts spoiling. Make sure to keep it refrigerated at all times for it to retain all moisture! 

You can freeze fresh salmon for 2-3 months. While you can freeze it for up to six months, its quality starts degrading after three months. To freeze raw salmon, first rinse it, pat it dry, and wrap in an air-tight container. Label it with the date of freezing, and use it before six months.

When it comes to defrosting and thawing frozen salmon, you have a few options. Cooking frozen salmon may spoil its flavor and texture. So, be careful and allocate enough time to defrost the fish properly so that its flavor and nutrients remain intact. Remember, thawing is different than reheating. 

Here are three ways to thaw frozen salmon safely:

Thaw in Refrigerator – The Safest Method

Let your frozen salmon thaw naturally in the refrigerator for about 12 hours or more. If the salmon weighs more than 500g, take it out of the freezer 24 hours before cooking time. Remove it from the packaging and wrap in a plastic wrap that is big enough to hold the entire piece. Keep it away from sweet food; otherwise, they may absorb the smell.

Thaw in Cold Water

If you are in a hurry and have only one hour to cook your dish, you can defrost the salmon in cold tap water. Remove the salmon packaging, package it again in a dry zip-lock bag and seal it closed. Place the bag in a large bowl so that the fish defrosts evenly. Next, move the bowl in the sink and fill it with cold tap water. Do not thaw out fish in hot water because it may create the risk of bacterial growth. Replace water in the bowl every 10-15 minutes until the fish completely defrosts. Cook the salmon immediately; otherwise, the fish may go bad if left uncooked for too long.



Know your salmon varieties

Understanding the various varieties of salmon that are commercially available will give you a better idea of what you can expect when you buy them. 


Expect rich, buttery flavor and a price that will cost you more than any other variety. Think of King as the Cadillac of salmon.

Market Names: Chinook salmon, King salmon, Spring salmon, Tyee salmon, Blackmouth salmon Primary
Source: Alaska, Oregon, California
Season: California, Oregon & Washington troll: April—Sept. Alaska: May—August, winter troll: October—April
Flavor Profile: King salmon have the highest oil content of all five species of wild salmon it has a rich, buttery flavor. 

* Kings are the largest of the salmon family 



Expect flesh with a deep, red color, and don’t worry if the skin is light gray—chances are those varieties are just from extremely cold glacial waters. 

Market Names: Sockeye, Red Salmon, Blueback Salmon

Primary Source: Alaska, B.C., Washington. The best Sockeye are from sources like the Copper River, where the salmon have a long “run” to make and, as a result, must gorge themselves in advance for fuel, creating fish with plenty of rich, delicious fat.

Season: May – August

Flavor Profile: High oil content and a stunning bright-red flesh color



They’re widely available and freeze well. One thing to note: If you have access to extremely fresh fish, you’ll want to avoid Coho at the very beginning of the season (the first week of July), since they need a bit more time to bulk up than other varieties.

Market Names: Silver salmon. Silver bullets , Coho

Primary Source: Alaska, B.C., Washington

Season: July-October

Flavor Profile: Coho salmon have a bright red color flesh and is right in the middle on the salmon scale of oil content



Very mild in flavor and very fragile, optimal quality the day t is caught not a freezing type of fish as it doesn’t freeze well or age well.” 

Market Names: Pink Salmon, Humpies

Primary Source: Alaska, B.C., Washington

Season: July-September

Flavor Profile: Pinks have the lowest oil content of the five Pacific salmon species, and a more delicate, trout-like flavor



You might see this also labeled as Dogfish or “Keta.” Chum salmon breed at the mouth of the rivers and streams and are lower in fat, making them great candidates for smoking. 

Market Names: Chum salmon, Fall salmon, Keta salmon, Dog Salmon, Silverbright

Primary Source: Alaska, B.C., Washington

Season: May – November

Flavor Profile: Of the five salmon species, chum is a comparatively paler-fleshed fish, with a lower oil content. Typically, though, Chum is harvested for its roe. But, if you happen upon chum, you should jump at the chance to buy them, as they’re meatier and great for grilled and smoke preparations.



Market Names: Rainbow trout, golden trout
Primary Source: Idaho and Washington
Season: Year-round
Flavor Profile: Trout has a delicate flavor that benefits from milder ingredients


Atlantic Salmon:

Market Names: Atlantic salmon is usually identified by country of origin e.g., Norwegian salmon, Chilean salmon, Scottish salmon
Primary Source: Chile, Canada, Norway, Washington state and Maine

Season: Year-round
Flavor Profile: Relatively high in oil content, Atlantic salmon is very adaptable to a variety of cooking methods



The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program will help you and other consumers make better choices for the benefit of a healthy ocean. It has guides and resources to support local and sustainable seafood, allowing you to make smarter decisions when buying salmon. This includes getting fresher fish too!





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