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Sockeye or King salmon

  • m

Which is better? The store I'm buying from states the King has more omega 3 (and more fat).

Also, since these are wild caught Alaskan salmon.....do they have PCBs and toxins etc?

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  1. King salmon is fattier than sockeye so I would guess it has more OM3. Wild salmon has PCBs and toxins but less than farmed.

    1 Reply
    1. re: scubadoo97

      scubadoo97: "King salmon is fattier than sockeye."

      Not quite so fast. While kings (especially white kings) are fatter than their sockeye cousins FROM THE SAME RIVER RUN, not all kings are fattier than all sockeye. A Copper River--or better yet Yukon--River sockeye is going to be fattier than a short-river king. So unless you know what run it is, you really can't tell without tasting or testing. Long-river sockeye are quite fatty--and delicious.

    2. Probably everything in the world contains some toxins, but wild salmon do not have the same environmental issues pen raised salmon do.

      Which is better? Depends on your tastes, King Salmon usually has more oil than Sockeye, some like that, some don't. There are 5 kinds of salmon available commercially, King usually has the most oil content, then Silver (aka Coho), then Sockeye, then Pink, then Chum.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Alan408

        So, can I eat salmon everyday? about 6oz a day.

        1. re: mwok

          You can, but I think USDA warns against any practice like that.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            But Alaskans eat large amounts of fish everyday and they do not have any problems?

            1. re: mwok

              Let me double check, I could be wrong on salmons.

              1. re: mwok

                Not FDA or USDA (bad memory), it is an organization calls Environmental Defense Fund. It recommends no more than 1 serve of salmon per month (kinda of low for my taste)


                I don't remember what USDA and EPA stances are. It is not wrong to eat fish everyday, but there is a practice of "rotating fish". This is for de-risking.

                Do average Alaskans really eat large amount of salmon everyday?

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Note that the EDF site distinguishes between Washington salmon and Alaska salmon. The latter is good for 4+ servings per month except for small kids.

                2. re: mwok

                  It's like this. The colder the water, the less mercury content in the fish.

                  Studies on Alaskans who have eaten salmon every day of their lives show no elevated levels of mercury in their systems.

          2. They're both really good. Sockeye is meatier, King is oilier. I like to have some of each.

            As for eating it every day, I'd agree it's probably not prudent to eat any fish every day. But who knows for sure? You'd have to measure PCBs in each piece to know, and no one really knows what levels will cause harm.

            If you're concerned about pollutants, you should know that the fat in the fish is where most of the pollutants are. Unfortunately if you're trying to get Omega 3's.

            1. King v. Sockeye?

              Which is better? They're different and depends on what you want in your salmon.

              As others have said, King is generally fattier than Sockeye, which will be firmer and meatier in comparison to King.

              Think of it this way ... in loose terms, King is sort of like a ribeye steak while a Sockeye is more like a sirloin.

              Both are very very good in their own right. It just depends on personal preferences and what you want out of your fish experience.

              (All of the above applies only to wild, not farmed, salmon).

              7 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                So how did all these PCBs get in the fish in the first place? 100 years ago, did these fish have PCBs and these modern toxins in them?

                1. re: mwok

                  Pacific salmon are anadromous. They are born in fresh water, swim out to the ocean, then return up the rivers to spawn and die. Rivers have historically been dumping grounds. Runoff from all kinds of nasty things (mills, mining operations, city sewers, etc.) got put in rivers. That's less of an issue now, but there are still plenty of toxins in the soil that continue to find their way into river water. So fish that spend a significant amount of their lives in or around rivers tend to have toxins in their flesh.

                  Even fish that never see fresh water will have some toxins. River water ultimately ends up in the ocean, where it accumulates in plankton, krill, and other tiny critters, which are eaten by everything from anchovies to baleen whales. Animals low on the food chain with short lifespans (eg sardines) don't tend to end up with much of a toxic burden unless they're exposed to seriously polluted water. Animals high on the food chain (eg tuna) or that live for a long time (eg sturgeon) tend to bioaccumulate significant amounts of nasty stuff like mercury and PCBs.

                  Since salmon are spawned in river water and are fairly high on the food chain, they're going to be exposed to the toxic byproducts of modern industry. Wild salmon (which spend most of their lives far away from shore) are safer than farmed salmon (which tend to be raised close to a river mouth). And much as it pains me to say this, salmon from Alaska (where there's minimal industry) are safer than those from California.

                  According to the EDF site cited by Chemicalkinetics above, you should moderate your intake of wild Pacific salmon caught off the mainland, but can pretty much eat as much Alaskan salmon as you can tolerate. Makes sense to me.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Thanks for the great information! Regarding the toxins in the soil.....was that there 100 years ago OR was that due to industry dumping toxins as well?

                    If it was due to industry, now that there are more stricter guidelines, will these toxins disappear or still stick around and accumulate?

                    1. re: mwok

                      If it was due to industry, now that there are more stricter guidelines, will these toxins disappear or still stick around and accumulate?

                      Stick around and accumulate, but most likely at a slower rate.

                      1. re: mwok

                        Few if any of the toxins are naturally occurring. (Almost) all of them come from industry. So the fact that toxic dumping is now illegal should keep the problem from getting worse. But the industrial waste that has already permeated the soil will be with us for a good long time.

                        Then there are questions of habitat destruction, fishery mismanagement, and changes we just don't understand. I haven't eaten a salmon I caught myself in three years. Here's hoping that 2011 brings better...

                        1. re: mwok

                          Note that many of these toxins were legal to use in the past and disposal methods were often not regulated. Also, many of these toxins can and do migrate through soil and groundwater over time which means that old plumes can reach new places.

                          Oh, and I prefer sockeye - king is too fatty for me.

                        2. re: alanbarnes

                          Or to summarize alanbarnes' very erudite explanation ... because salmon live in the environment.

                    2. I want to learn to like salmon. What is the mildest, least salmon-ey tasting salmon?

                      17 Replies
                      1. re: sparkareno

                        Hmm, my initial reaction is to say "eat farmed salmon" because to me farmed salmon tastes exactly like pink colored mashed potatoes -- mushy and generally very bland.

                        But, that said, I think the reason to eat salmon *is* for the distinctive salmon taste.

                        If your goal is to incorporate more fish in your diet and do not want to mess with the distinctive flavor of salmon, why not try a milder tasting fish like halibut, cod or sole?

                        I guess in order to better answer your question, one sort of has to know why you "want to learn to like salmon"? Is it for its health benefits (Omega 3 fatty acids)? Or something else?

                        If it's for its heart healthy benefits, lots of other non-salmon-y fish (like trout and albacore tuna) can provide you comparable benefits.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I want to eat it for the health benefits. I don't care for trout or tuna (will eat canned once in a while). I love halibut but I don't think it has the same omega fatty acids and it is super expensive. Maybe I will try farmed--thanks.

                          1. re: sparkareno

                            If you have a Trader Joe's within a reasonabole distance, they have excellent frozen wild caught Alaskan halibut.

                            1. re: mcf

                              And good frozen wild salmon too.

                              1. re: EM23

                                Yep, that too. Very good quality, very low price for it.

                                1. re: mcf

                                  Yes, mcf...Target stores sell wild-caught frozen sockeye salmon for $10.99 per pound here...sometimes on sale for $7.99 per pound!!! Very good buy either way!

                                  1. re: Val

                                    I just discovered that the salmon being sold as wild pacific is better known locally as chum salmon; you know the stuff you use as bait, or that the aboriginals feed to their dogs. I made some gravlox with a package of that salmon and it was flavorless mush.

                                    Never again. Unless it's at least sockeye grade, don't waste your money.

                            2. re: sparkareno

                              sparkareno, I am pretty sure that the farmed salmon does NOT contain the omega-3 benefits of wild sockeye salmon. Ugh, stay way from farmed salmon! For omega 3's: wild salmon has the most per serving, then sardines, then kippers. Canned salmon is really best for Omega 3's, more here:


                              1. re: sparkareno

                                Regardless of whether farmed salmon has the same health benefits of wild salmon (it doesn't), or whether it can compare in taste (it can't), salmon aquaculture is an environmental catastrophe.

                                For salmon with relatively mild flavor at a low price, consider the canned stuff. No, you're not going to serve a fillet on your best plates with fancy garnishes, but it's good for salmon salad sandwiches, salmon burgers, or salmon croquettes.

                                Now if you want loads of fatty acids in a sustainable fish, things like sardines, mackerel, and herring can't be beat. And they tend to be relatively inexpensive.

                                1. re: sparkareno

                                  GAH! NOOOOOO! I know this is an old post, but NOOOOO! I had to echo this: Farmed = BAD for the environment, and BAD for wild salmon runs. Go try some milder wild salmon. How about some simple pink? Fry it up in clarified butter. It's mild.

                                  1. re: Vetter

                                    My old roommate who moved to the Kenai Peninsula in the early '70s just sent me a package of salmon she caught over the summer (God bless Mary Janik!) and gave me a little education about the salmon.he said the pinks are really good when caught at sea, but by the time they get to the inlet or rivers to spawn their flesh has turned to slimy mush and nobody wants to catch those. Pinks may be really good if you catch them out onthe ocean.

                              2. re: sparkareno

                                Be careful not to overcook any variety of salmon to keep the flavor mild. Better yet, eat it raw.

                                1. re: babette feasts

                                  babette: "...eat it raw."

                                  Nooooooooo, at least not without freezing first. Anisakis simplex, codworm and tapeworm await you. And don't believe it when the aquabiz guys tell you farmed Atlantic is safer--other way around.

                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    What, you mean to suggest that swimming in overcrowded fecal soup isn't as healthy as living in the open ocean?

                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      alanbarnes: LOL! "Swimming" in the pen isn't exactly the word I'd pick, but you have the mard picture right. What I find most scandalous is that the pens in narrow inlets and fjords are actually INCREASING the parasites in the wild runs. Swim by, greet your cousins in prison, and get infested. At least the wilds aren't getting the dyes.

                                  2. re: sparkareno

                                    Raw is very mild, I don't like salmon cooked, but we love it raw. I am going to get a piece today and we will have a sashimi dinner!!

                                  3. Sockeye gets my vote ... here's Dr. Andrew Weil's take on it too...believe I've seen more "experts" go for the sockeye vs. the king salmon but whatever, good that you want to eat more wild salmon, mwok!

                                    1. It's really much ado about nothing. But, don't take my word for it, but from a study in one of the most reputable (actual) science journals, the JAMA:

                                      The gist of it: Even eating highly contaminated fish (in moderation) is a net gain for your health. Overall, fish contain less than 10% of the toxins we're consuming (90% is from meat, veggies and dairy).

                                      (Depending on where you live I may wager you're getting more toxins from the air you breathe.
                                      )Salmon have relatively low toxin levels, so knock yourself out and eat it daily. But, I wouldn't for 2 reasons:
                                      1. You'd get sick of it.
                                      2. General rule for a healthy diet is to eat a variety of food. The more colors, the better.

                                      Anyway, between the two, the difference is negligible. But, if you're really concerned, go with Sockeye. The general rule of toxins apply here: The higher it is in the food chain, the higher the toxin.

                                      1. I think it comes down to personal taste; sockeye makes me gag, literally, I can't even look at it without a reflexive reaction. It's way too lean for me, so the texture grosses me out, and it has little flavor. I love King salmon, it's my favorite; very creamy, mild but delicious. I only eat wild Alaskan salmon in season or frozen out of season. You have to experiment to see which you're going to like the most...

                                        1. It's a matter of personal taste. Try both and see which one you like better.

                                          1. As someone who eats a lot of salmon, I recommend the king (chinook in Canada) over sockeye as I like the oilier richness. But, freshness and preparation matter more. The king's oilier consistency makes it ideal for smoking and grilling. Sockeye is better for baking or pan-roasting.

                                            If both these fish are too strongly flavored you can try coho or silver salmon. Trader Joe's has decent frozen coho. It's super lean and delicate (no strong fish taste).

                                            I can't recommend farmed salmon at all. Although there are a few restaurants that source farmed fish from pristine, clean-water operations, most farmed salmon tastes like it was reared in muddy ponds. Bear in mind almost all Atlantic salmon is farmed, unless you get it from some gourmet shop that gets it from some river in Scotland and flies it here at tremendous expense.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: BobtheBigPig

                                              Hi, Bob: "The king's oilier consistency makes it ideal for smoking..."

                                              Partially disagree. You're right about grilling, at least for fish from the same river.

                                              But not about smoking. Because king fillets are so much thicker, they do not take the brine/cure, pelicle, OR THE SMOKE as deep (proportionately) into the flesh as do the thinner sockeye. Tails, collars and squaw candy, maybe, but give me a Copper sockeye any day over a Copper king for the smoker.

                                            2. I love all kinds of Salmon, the most important thing, the really important thing is to wash it before you cook it. Rinse it very very very well.

                                              Rinse the salmon before you cook it!

                                              Cook it just till almost done, then pull the pan out and plate it.

                                              We generally wash the salmon, put a bit of PAM on the pan plop the filet down skin side down, put a tiny bit of butter or whatever embellishments we're currently fond of, and put it in the oven then turn the oven on to 450, when it hits 450 pull it out and check - each piece is different - check for doneness - when it is done it flakes but we pull it out when there is just a bit of raw looking fish in the middle. I often turn the broiler on it while plating the rest of the dinner then whip it out real hot and put it on the plate and serve NOW. Fast! Clean, Heat, Serve fast. Oh and I thaw it in the plastic pack it comes in and if I am in a hurry I put that plastic bag in warm (not hot) water.

                                              I'm leaning towards the Sockeye cuz it eats Krill


                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: KL55803

                                                I've never rinsed it before cooking. Why is this important?

                                                1. re: KL55803

                                                  Hi, KL: 450 Oven? Broiler?

                                                  Them's fightin' words. ;)


                                                2. Sockeye salmon feed lower on the food chain, so in theory should be less free of toxins, but given it's Alaska not sure how much of a worry. If you are concerned about farmed fish however, they have not figured out how to do farmed Sockeye, unlike King(Chinook) so Sockeye wins on that front too.

                                                  Personally I think sockeye tastes better as it's a little less fatty. A little less Omega 3, but a better taste. You decide.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: trumpster

                                                    I agree, it's a personal decision. I actually prefer King because it seems more silky, succulent if that makes sense.

                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                      My bad. i meant to fish that feed lower on the food chain should have less toxins. Sardines also score high for this reason.

                                                  2. King Salmon or Chinook is a richer, fattier fish because they eat other fatty fish, like herring. King Salmon on the grill is the best in my opinion. But far from the only way to enjoy this amazing fish.
                                                    Sockeye or Red Salmon do not eat other fish, they eat krill and other little sea creatures, thus they are much leaner, so you want to cook them quickly, like a sautéed, and don’t over cook them.
                                                    All Fisheries in Alaska have to be sustainable, it’s in the state constitution.
                                                    Here is some basic info on the 5 types of Alaskan Salmon
                                                    If you are looking for the mildest salmon, in terms of flavor try Pink salmon, mild and not as firm in texture compared to the others.