A Beginner’s Guide to the 7 Different Types of Salmon You Can Buy

If you’ve ever found yourself in the seafood aisle at your grocery store, overwhelmed by the selection of salmon available for purchase, this post is for you. This article will give you a beginner’s guide to understanding and selecting the best salmon from all the different types of salmon that are available. From wild-caught Alaskan Sockeye Salmon to farmed Atlantic Salmon, there is a type of salmon out there for everyone.

So without any further ado, let’s get started.


1. Red Sockeye Salmon

The Sockeye Salmon is a species of salmon found in the northern Pacific and eastern Arctic oceans. They are red on top with a white belly, silvery flanks, and dark spots over their head. Sockeye Salmon is also known as Red Salmon because they turn bright red when they mature (similar to the Atlantic Salmon) and are much leaner than other salmon.

Because they turn red, they are often confused with the Coho Salmon (silver in color and don’t turn red). Many restaurants have been known to serve Coho Salmon when in fact it’s Sockeye Salmon!

A single bite of uncooked Sockeye Salmon will immediately tell you why this is the most popular species of sushi in Japanese cuisine.

The Sockeye Salmon is considered one of the most sustainable wild-caught foods on Earth. They also have a higher concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids than any other variety of salmon—more than double that of Pink or Coho. All of this is wrapped up in a healthy low-calorie package…Sockeye Salmon has five times less fat than skinless chicken breast, and more protein than skinless chicken breast too!

High Omega-3 fatty acids will help lower your risk for heart disease, improves blood flow, decreases depression and anxiety, and helps prevent cancer. The high concentration of Vitamin D also helps to build strong bones.

On average, it takes anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour to cook a sockeye salmon filet on a grill or stove.

Related article: 4 Best Fish/Seafood to Eat On a Keto Diet

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2. Pink Salmon

Pink salmon, also known as humpback salmon is the smallest of the Pacific salmon, with an average weight range of 2–6 pounds. They are easily distinguished by their bright pink flesh and double black spot on both sides.

It is considered a delicacy due to its leanness and high omega-3 content. Because of that, it is mostly sold in restaurants as sushi or sashimi, and as salmon burgers rather than purchased from a grocery store.

They also all have black spots that are unique to each fish just like fingerprints on humans. These spots are used during spawning season to help identify which fish is mating with another, this way the female knows if the male is healthy enough to be a good mate.

Pink Salmon Facts: It is one of the smaller varieties of the Pacific Salmon. Sometimes the pink salmon can weigh more than 10-12 pounds. They have an average length between 10 – 20 inches long depending on where they spawn and how large their food source has been over time.

Its distinct pink-red meat has a much different flavor than sockeye or coho, which are both more rich and oily in character.

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3. Chum (Dog/Silverbrite/Keta) Salmon

The Chum salmon is one of the biggest species of Pacific salmon, second only to Chinook. It has a lower oil content than the other wild salmon, which gives it a relatively mild flavor. However, they’re one of the meatiest and firmest in the texture of all the wild species.

The Chum’s flesh is pink-orange in color compared to that of the Coho or the Red Sockeye salmon. It is also more firm and coarse.

Their raw meat is orange, pink, or red – the exact color depends on where the fish was caught In addition to their value as a food source, Chum are important for their role as anadromous indicator species (fish that live part-time in saltwater for feeding before migrating back into freshwater). They feed extensively on plankton while at sea and thus can be found in waters where few other fish live. Their presence indicates that the water is relatively clean and free of pollutants.

In the past, the fishermen didn’t care much about this salmon but now they are starting to get around. They are now starting to handle the Chum salmon the same way they do their other pricier salmons like the King and the Sockeye.


4. Atlantic Salmon

The Atlantic Salmon is found in the northern Atlantic Ocean and rivers that flow into it. In New England, wild Atlantic salmon populations are under threat from rising sea temperatures caused by global warming.

By August 2009 it was announced that all 28 states within the US will be participating in helping recover endangered salmon stocks by creating programs designed to conserve their habitats and breeding grounds while also reducing pollution in our nation’s waters. This announcement came after an 18-month study commissioned by NOAA.

The Atlantic Salmon you see in stores and restaurants is farmed. The majority of it comes from the waters around Scotland, Norway, and Canada where it is raised in large tank systems. The fish are fed pellets made with fish oil and other ingredients to fatten them up for the market. Salmon flesh is generally white or a light pink color because of this diet. It has a mild flavor but can be overpowered by strong herbs that are worked into the flesh during preparation (e.g., dill).

The best part about this salmon is that it finally is more affordable for the average person to enjoy who normally could not afford to shell out $50 per pound on a Copper River King Salmon. Atlantic salmon costs around $13 per pound.

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5. Steelhead Trout Salmon

All salmon in the Pacific that have a Steelhead is known as the Steelhead Salmon. Like every other salmon, the Steelhead is also born in freshwater and then makes its way to the ocean (saltwater).

Their flesh is pinkish-orange in color. Their meat has a flaky texture with a rich, mild, sweet flavor and high protein content. Their flesh is pinkish-orange in color and comes in different grades just like any other fish on the market. You can buy it fresh or smoked.

The best part is, it costs less than king salmon, making it the best deal for the money.

The Steelhead is raised in freshwater farms and ocean pens throughout the year. But the taste can vary a lot depending on where it was grown. If you buy a Steelhead that was raised in the ocean, I recommend putting it on the grill and serving it with fresh lemon.

Buy wild or farm-raised Steelhead?

I suggest buying both kinds depending on what type of fish you like to eat and also your budget. Farm-raised steelhead is cheaper than wild Steelhead because it grows faster because they are fed pellets throughout their life (which doesn’t kill them so that’s good). But if you’re looking for a much richer taste, go for the wild one.

But if you want my advice, get both! They are both delicious and they have different prices and sizes so why not have some variety once in a while by getting both?

Related article: 7 Best Salmon For Smoking

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6. Coho Salmon

Coho salmon is a PNW (Pacific NorthWest) species that is wild-caught and delicious. It has a medium fat content and a subtle flavor that makes it awesome for cooking whole.

This Fish does not get the press that the King or Sockeye do, but it is one of the best-tasting salmon out there.

One great thing about coho salmon is its size. While King salmon can top out at 45 pounds (sometimes much larger), Coho tends to be smaller, 10 – 25 pounds in most cases, making them ideal for cooking whole in foil packs or on cedar planks without wasting any meat. Even the largest ones are manageable though…they’re definitely not “too big” like some other big steelheads can sometimes be when they reach epic proportions.

One of my favorite things to do with Coho is smoke it (or bake it) and then put some BBQ sauce on it…delish! Its low-fat content makes the BBQ sauce stick very well so you get a nice crust on there. Put some of that smoked coho alongside a plate of homemade poutine, or maybe even a hodge-podge salad for dinner tonight.

Damnit, now I want some smoked Coho. 

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7. King Salmon

King salmon is considered the gold standard of all salmon types because of its delicious high, fat content bony flesh.

The best king salmon comes from Alaska and British Columbia in North America. Some of the other popular locations for King include Kodiak Island, Hawaii, and Scotland.

They can weigh as little as 20-something pounds and as much as 135-pounds. The average weight of a King salmon is usually about 40 pounds.

The color of the flesh differs from river-to-river and can be snow-white, ruby red, or even dark orange depending on the quality of their diet in their early life stages.

This fish species is caught mostly by fishermen during its return migration to its spawning grounds after spending almost 4 years feeding in the ocean. Their food sources include shrimp, krill, plankton, herring, smelt, and eulachon just to name a few; that’s why it has such rich high-fat content bony flesh compared to other salmon species like silver salmon and chum salmon.

Their flavor is the main reason why it is the most sought after by people who want to buy fresh, wild salmon.

It is also one of the most expensive types of salmon. The price varies depending on the size and weight, although it can go up to $50 per pound for some types of king salmon.

The average market price is around $25-$35 per pound.

I hope that you have found this article helpful in understanding the different types of salmon and how to choose which one is right for your needs. Remember, it’s always a good idea to ask questions about where the fish was caught or raised before purchasing any seafood. You are entitled to know what you’re eating!

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