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Dec 13, 2006 02:42 PM

wild vs. farmed salmon cooking times

hi--does anyone know a) why wild salmon would take SO MUCH LONGER to cook than farmed salmon and b) advice on how to properly cook wild salmon so that it doesn't end up being tough and horrid on the outside and raw on the inside?
the other night we bought a lovely piece of alaskan wild salmon and decided to use a simple mark bittman roasting-in-butter at 475 recipe, which we use often to great success for farmed salmon. for the wild salmon, however, it (almost comically) flatly refused to cook. i know the oven was not to blame b/c there's a thermometer in there to check. we ended up cooking it for a horrendously long time and of course wound up with a tough, ruined waste of money.
is it because the flesh is more fibrous/muscular? would cooking it longer at a lower temperature help, or perhaps forgoing the oven altogether and grilling/pancooking it over very high heat would be better? has anyone else had this problem, or is the oven bewitched?

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  1. Was the wild salmon previously frozen? Or merely kept on ice? I find freezing fish often compromises their succulence, with wild salmon being among the worst culprits in this regard.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Karl S

      unless whole foods is shady in their labeling, i think it was just kept on ice. it did not say that it was previosly frozen and i usually trust whole foods so wholeheartedly at their fish counter that i did not think to check...i will go check tonight when i am shopping and see

    2. You should probably HOPE it had been frozen. It may have been just dried out.
      Unless you live in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest, think how long that fish had been out of those Alaskan waters. Maybe close to a week? From the boat to the brokers to an auction to Whole Foods' supply chain to a warehouse near you to your store, with at least one trip on an airplane and a few on trucks. That fish probably had a lot of frequent flyer miles and you have no way of knowing how it was handled along the way.
      I never buy fish at chain stores - including WF - unless it's frozen. I usually buy my fresh fish from a quality fish market where I know their supply chain.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MakingSense

        Which is why I normally limit myself to fish that is a bit more local and has been kept on ice; freezing often decreases my enjoyment of fish.

        1. re: Karl S

          points taken--i live in New England so buying the alaskan salmon was not the best idea of mine. i usually buy fish from the northeast but what can i say, i got carried away by the whole foods hypnosis (all that sexy lighting!) and the sight of that beautiful dark flesh.
          still, i am not quite sure that dryness was the problem? could you explain that more to me, how that would prevent it from cooking? the uncooked part of the fish was quite tender and didn't seem dodgy. thank you!

      2. I am in California, the Alaskan Salmon I am seeing is Sockeye, farmed salmon is either Atlantic or Chinook. Different species, different diets.

        Regarding fresh vs. frozen, I prefer frozen fish over fresh. In the old days, freezing may have been a gamble, but individually quick frozen (IFQ) vacuum packed fish is very efficient.

        Regarding fresh vs. "old", that is a problem created by the market.

        Regarding cooking methods, I would not cook salmon in butter at 475. Wild King (Chinook) salmon is usually high on oil, no butter needed, just medium heat. You want the fish to cook through, not char the outside while the inside is still raw. Poached salmon is a very easy way to cook salmon, simmer (don't boil) until the fish flakes, about 5 minutes per inch (thick). I wonder if the OP purchased a sockeye salmon filet and tried to use a method better suited for Atlantic Salmon Steaks.