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Difference between red salmon and pink salmon, in cans?

I was reading a recent post on canned salmon, and began to wonder about the difference between red and pink salmon. I guess that based on my long-time bias for "solid white" tuna, I always assumed that "red" salmon was the better quality, and "pink" was the equivalent of the cheaper tunas. But now I keep seeing the pink variety in boneless and skinless form, which is easier to work with. Anyone know the difference?

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  1. They're two different species - "red" salmon, also known as sockeye, are Oncorhyncus nerka; pink salmon, also known as "humpback" or "humpies" due to the rather odd looking humped back characteristic of spawning males, are Oncorhyncus gorbuscha. I think the consensus is that of the two, reds are a better food fish. The other common Pacific salmon species are kings (Chinook) and coho (silvers), both of which seem to get better reviews than reds and pinks, and dog salmon (cohos), which seem to be at the bottom of everyone's list.

    16 Replies
    1. re: FlyFish

      Thanks for the very interesting and informative answer. I had always assumed that the "pink" salmon was just lower quality. But I'm also wondering if people have had good experience with the pink salmon, in cans? I have to admit, getting it boneless and skinless is a big plus in my book.

      1. re: winedude

        I really can't comment on the overall quality of canned pink salmon, but I just noticed a typo in my earlier reply . . . dog salmon are also referred to as CHUM salmon, not coho (which I had correctly identified as the same fish as silver salmon).

        1. re: FlyFish

          I've also seen Dog Salmon refered to as "Keta Salmon"

          1. re: ospreycove

            That's right, and it must be a relatively new marketing innovation. In my youth (a long time ago) I thought chum was cat food and I had never heard of Keta. Just a few years ago I saw "keta" for the first time and wondered where a new type of salmon had come from.

        2. re: winedude

          Of course, a huge percentage of the omega 3's is right under the skin, and the bones are FULL of calcium. I used to love those little crunches when my mother made salmon croquettes from canned salmon...

          1. re: galleygirl

            Have only tried canned salmon 1-2 times. First time, thought the "crunches" were a result of cheap/inferior product?? Second time, realized must come with territory. Not for me!

            1. re: kseiverd

              The crunch is the good stuff!
              Sadly there is a huge difference in quality of canned salmon.
              Generally you get what you are willing to pay for.
              Wild sockeye caught and canned in the Pacific Northwest is about as good as it gets.

              1. re: Puffin3

                Yes. I have smoked sockeye canned in evoo which I use in a salad in a way similar to tuna in salade ni├žoise. But that's not what people generally mean when they say "canned salmon."

        3. re: FlyFish

          You're close.
          Actually 'dog' salmon are 'Chum' salmon and definitely at the bottom of the list when it comes to flavor.Two reasons they are called 'doggies: One is the males grow 'dog-like' teeth before spawning and another may be the fact that the coastal indians would feed their dogs the abundant chum salmon. They would never let their dogs near say a forty pound Chinook.
          Today the coastal indians still smoke 'doggies' although they are oily and IMO have too fishy a taste for my liking. The reason the First Nations smoke so many 'doggies' is because the runs of 'doggies' tend to be much larger according to the year than the more prized fish.
          Coho are very highly prized as an eating fish.

          1. re: FlyFish

            To me, the general downward quality spectrum runs Kings-Silvers-Sockeye-Dogs-Humpies. But it depends on the runs, troll vs. gillnet, salt- vs. freshwater catch, etc. Good fish on the low end are often better than iffy fish higher up. Smell, taste and then decide.

            1. re: kaleokahu

              Virtually every King/Spring/Chinook is caught using trolling methods. I've caught many thousand this way.
              The number one priority after one of these fish comes aboard is to gut them and remove the gills and into the ice then under a ice blanket.
              There are usually enough people aboard to get this job done immediately.
              Gillnetting can result in a lot of Pinks/Sockeye and other species coming aboard at once.
              Gillnetters who set in river mouths tend to be small one or two men boats that can be 'trailered' nowdays. This can mean a few hundred dead fish sloshing around on deck for hours before they can be gutted/gilled and iced down. Hence the quality can suffer greatly sometimes.

              1. re: Puffin3

                Fish can hang in gillnets anyplace.

                Under the 2014 SE Alaska all-gear treaty allocation, 26% of kings are allocated to non-trolling methods. http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static-f/a...

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  I don't know what you are getting at.
                  You know of course no gill netted fish is going to be wrapped up on the drum. Do you mean leaving the fish in the gillnet in the water and bringing them in as the one's coming aboard are processed?
                  Any Captain I know wants those fish aboard and iced ASAP.

                  1. re: Puffin3

                    And you surely know that the "captain" doesn't pull the net, or skiff over, every time a cork goes down. It may be night, there may be more than one beach set to check. Tide goes out or the river drops. Things happen.

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      In this part of the world gillnetters have very limited openings. DOF don't announce openings until they know pretty much where the fish are and in what abundance. Hence 'long soaks' are rare. The gillnets are short. 'Beach sets' are not the common method. Most skippers in the Fraser River fishery for instance will set and then go back to where the set started and pick-up until about halfway then reset then reverse this action. It's a continuous 'set then 'pick' method. This method also drives fish into the gillnet as the boat runs from end to end pretty much continuously. When the fish are plentiful the crew can be literally up to their knees in pinks. That means it can be a long time before all the fish are at least iced down. These fish are not gilled or gutted. The boat runs in when it has to and is offloaded at places like Steveston then back to the estuary.
                      If DOF are doing their job as soon as the floats hits the water the fish are hitting the net. It's like the herring fishery. Very short very hectic and lots of fish.

                  2. re: kaleokahu

                    The link doesn't work.
                    The 26% makes up the sports fishery and the First Nations Treaty quota.
                    I should have posted that virtually every "commercially sold" King.............................is caught using trolling methods.

            2. I was an Alaskan, growing up in a 3 room cabin,eating what my father hunted and fished. Dad would get huge 80-90 lb king salmon and Mom would can much if it. Dad made storage under all our bed mattresses where cans of salmon were stored until winter. Just like Alaskan King Crab, we grew very tired of eating what now is considered desirable. When I learned how to make salmon croquettes in high school home ec, the whole family was excited to have a new recipe in our repertoire. Many women, including my aunt, worked in the canneries during the season to make extra money. We kids waded in creeks to catch "humpies" with our bare hands. Needless to say, I don't order salmon when I go to a restaurant...I'd love to have King Crab again tho but it's been overfished so much (allegedly)) that it's out of reach for most financially. I do keep cans of pink salmon handy so when I feel a bit homesick I make salmon salad....chopped hard boiled eggs, onions, celery, salmon and light mayo.....serve in tomatoes, .even sandwiches are great!!! Between red and pink, to me pink has more flavor and a better texture for this salad.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Sunny574

                Ya. Same with me. I commercial fished pretty much anything that lives in the Pacific coastal waters.
                The only thing I enjoy now is a fresh rock cod or small lingcod or a Dungeness crab.
                Salmon? Not so much.

                1. re: Sunny574

                  I lived out on the Olympic Peninsula about 35 years ago, at a USFW salmon hatchery. We were dirt poor--our diet was razor clams, salmon and dungeness crabs (about a buck a piece at that time.)

                  Nowadays, I have more money, but I can hardly afford any of that!

                  1. re: sparrowgrass

                    Ya. It's amazing!
                    An average sized Dungeness crab today costs about $25.00 around here.
                    When I started commercial fishing for springs in about 1968 we got .25 cents a pound.......if they were in perfect shape.
                    Crabs were .50 each for live/large.

                    1. re: Puffin3

                      Don't get me started. Have you priced halibut cheeks lately?

                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        Watch for the packages of 'Halibut (like) cheeks' made from pollock.
                        Even they will be too expensive for the average shopper soon. HA HA!

                2. MIL uses canned Pink salmon to make salmon loaf and salmon croquettes every week. I'm usually the one who has to pick it up at the store. She's made this for many years.

                  She has determined that the Chicken of the Sea is the best national brand (quality and taste) and hates Bumble Bee pink salmon.

                  She waits for Walgreen's to have the Chicken of the Sea tall cans on sale at $1.99 (about a three to four week cycle) and stocks up for the month (regular price is $3.99).

                  Growing up my mother made salmon croquettes or salmon loaf about every two weeks, but always used Rubinstein's RED canned salmon. About 5 years ago she tasted my MIL's salmon loaf and said never again, no taste.

                  I don't eat fresh cooked or smoked salmon (don't like the taste) but will eat MIL's pink salmon loaf or croquettes---doesn't taste much like 'real salmon'

                  1. Pink Red---Red Pink---Pink is cheaper because we are led to believe Red Salmon is a better quality and better taste---sorry to all you snobs---Pink is half the price and thrice as nice---as for the erm "EXPERTS" ?????---Salmon is Salmon is Salmon---whether it's Pink Red White or every colour of the rainbow---so those with common sense---buy two pink for the price of one red---now remind me who the "EXPERTS" are---it's a no brainer---

                    4 Replies
                      1. re: pinkwhitered

                        Ya. Like cheese-smeese right?
                        Kaft slices. Velveta or PR. What's the difference? I can buy a TON of Kraft cheese slices for HALF what I would pay for a piece of expensive PR.
                        So all you cheese snobs who are the "experts" now?
                        It's a no [brianer].

                        1. re: Puffin3

                          yeah right m8 who are these cheese snobs are they with brains nah it's a no brainer (brianer) who ever he is out of a tub of cheese. I love most cheese's but not from between toes that's rank