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Calling all salmon lovers - king or sockeye?

I love, love king salmon but don't think I have ever tried sockeye salmon. however, it always intrigued me at the store but given that King is so delicious I've never ventured away from it. Do you prefer king or sockeye or both and do you prepare them differently? Is there a good way to describe any difference in taste between the two?

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  1. I love king, sockeye and coho. The best I've had of each has been sublime and comparable in quality so I don't have a preference. The variation comes with the sourcing, freshness, handling etc.

    7 Replies
    1. re: andrewtree

      I commercial fished (trolling only) for Springs for a long time. IMO Springs are too strong flavored. I'll eat a coho over a sockeye anytime. Sockeye is 'net caught' and it's not possible to immediately clean them as such. Lactic acid which occurs when the fish is struggling/dying in the net IMO poisons the fish and turns the flesh sour. It can be hours before a sockeye is cleaned. Coho are 'line caught' and processed/cleaned as soon as they come on board as are Spring(King) salmon. This makes a BIG difference in the quality/taste of the flesh.
      Salamon is really easy to over cook. People who use tin foil to cook fish are basically guessing when the fish is perfectly cooked. And the skin will never be crispy if that's what you like. I have always used a ss pan with a glass lid so I can see the fish as it's cooking. Preheat the ss pan to medium never hot. Then add some clarified butter. When the butter is hot slide the fish skin side down onto the pan. No herbs or seasoning. Put the lid on and watch as the fillet/steak cooks through. Never turn the fish. When the fish just turns from raw to just starting to become flaky remove the fish and rest. The fish doesn't need to be screaming hot when served.
      Any fish will lose it's natural flavor if strong herbs/seasonings/garlic etc etc are used. Just a light sprinkle of kosher salt and a light squeeze of fresh lemon juice and you'll be tasting the natural flavor of the fish. Otherwise any fish will just be a piece of protein that tastes like garlic/onion/pepper/ herbs or whatever. What's the point in paying a lot of money for that result?

      1. re: Puffin3

        Cooking in foil isn't necessaeily guesswork. The way I learned to cook a whole salmon Northwest (US) style is to wrap it in foil, but to fold it in such a way as to leave easy access to the dorsal fin. When the fish should be about done, you gently pull on the fin. If it doesn't pop out easily, it's not done yet.

        1. re: Puffin3

          puffin, your explanation sounds like a reasonable idea for what was my recent taste experience with a sockeye salmon. i did not overcook or overseason, and i ended up tossing it (much to my wallet's chagrin). neither cat wanted it either.

          1. re: Puffin3

            " Sockeye is 'net caught' and it's not possible to immediately clean them as such. Lactic acid which occurs when the fish is struggling/dying in the net IMO poisons the fish and turns the flesh sour. It can be hours before a sockeye is cleaned."

            Thanks so much for this information, it may explain a lot in terms of my reaction to sockeye, despite a life long love of salmon in general. I missed this until now.

            I wonder if the texture I find objectionable is also due to the delayed cleaning and lack of freshness it causes?

            1. re: Puffin3

              Hi, Puffin3:

              "Lactic acid which occurs when the fish is struggling/dying in the net IMO poisons the fish and turns the flesh sour. It can be hours before a sockeye is cleaned. Coho are 'line caught' and processed/cleaned as soon as they come on board as are Spring(King) salmon."

              IMO, there are too many variables for your statements to be categorically true. Many gillnetters will take fish the minute a float goes down. Likewise it can be hours before a troll-caught fish is cleaned. And line-caught fish struggle and can generate plenty of lactic acid. Frankly from the perspective of a fish being "worked up", a trap, purse seine or even a gillnet would be less struggle for the fish than fighting a line. Processing is another matter entirely.

              Considering the Japanese obsession with freshness and their preference for sockeye in sushi and sashimi, the picture of a gill beach set dangling at low tide full of dead, souring sockeye just isn't a generalizable reality, IMO.

              Aloha,
              Kaleo

              1. re: Puffin3

                Hi, Puffin3: "I'll eat a coho over a sockeye anytime."

                Maybe so, but I thought you can't stand salmon anymore. In http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/885143, you recently said:

                "...I can say that I can't stand the stuff [salmon at all]. I never liked it even when it had come out of the water thirty minutes ago...The best IMO is Sockeye or chum..."

                So, you like silvers?

                Aloha,
                Kaleo

            2. King v. Sockeye?

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

              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).

              3 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Yea, I guess this was more my question as I'd hate to spend on the sockeye if I don't like it :) Perhaps I'll give it a shot as of course I have moods when I want ribeye and moods I want sirloin it sounds like I can't lose probably. Never farmed, wouldn't waste the money although it seems here that wild King is easier to come by than wild Sockeye I'm not sure if there's a reason for that but just an observation.

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  I find wild sockeye is everywhere, King not so much. I'd wait til it's in season, though.

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  Thank you for a great comparison that helps me understand the differences.

                3. I purchase & enjoy both, & prepare them in the same ways. Really don't prefer one over the other, except when Copper River Sockeye is in season & available. Although pricey, that's some fabulous-tasting salmon.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Bacardi1

                    Agree on the Copper River salmon. Quite simply put - the best salmon I've ever tasted.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      I am going to sound like an idiot but does the Cooper River designation apply to all species?

                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                        I've only purchased Copper River Sockeye Salmon in-season (from Seabear). I'd assume that Coho is also caught and sold, but perhaps someone else more knowledgeable can answer that question.

                        http://www.seabear.com/product-detail...

                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                          Yes, apparently you can purchase King, Sockeye, Coho & Keta, however I have only found Sockeye at my market.

                        2. re: LindaWhit

                          There is a history to the Copper River mystique. In reality, it is a rare combination of clever marketing hype and real cooperation among fishers that gives us a great salmon.

                          The hype was the idea of creating a salmon regional "brand." If you get a Copper River fish fresh caught off the boat and cook it, it really won't be better than one from the Yukon river or some other spawning areas on the day they was caught. The problem was always quality control.

                          How quickly does the fisher clean the fish? How well and evenly is it iced? Finally, how quickly and in what condition does it get to market?

                          The fishers in the Copper River area decided they had to work together to maintain the best standards for all three of those vital quality controls. So when the marketing folks started the hype, the fish that was delivered was reliably excellent. That was worth a few bucks more a pound, the initial price differential.

                          Now some other areas of Alaska have caught on and you can get excellent fish from them, too. In fact, when CR salmon has a $10-20/price premium, I look for great bargains on other salmon.

                          As for the OP, I prefer the flavor of red (sockeye) to king, and the price is better, too. Regardless of preference between those two, anyone who uses sockeye in a salad is totally wasting their money. Buy the cheap stuff with the fake names, like keta or silverbrite. And if you see a bargain on white king, go for it. It tastes and feels just like regular king.

                          Finally, remember that in the US, you generally have a significant chance that your fish is mislabeled, and even higher in restaurants. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/ma...

                          So to the poster who didn't like some particular variety, don't be so sure you got what you paid for.

                          1. re: RandyB

                            "Finally, remember that in the US, you generally have a significant chance that your fish is mislabeled, and even higher in restaurants. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/ma...

                            So to the poster who didn't like some particular variety, don't be so sure you got what you paid for."

                            If you mean me, I know sockeye when I see it or, <gag>, taste it. It's very distinctive.

                      2. King salmon are called Chinook where I live. I have eaten a lot of them and they are good, but I prefer Sockeye and like Bacardi1 consider Copper River Sockeye the very best.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                          Your are correct - chinook and king are idential viz. Oncorhynchus tshawytscha.

                        2. I rarely see king salmon in the southeast, I buy it when I find it. The Copper River sockeye salmon run only lasts a few weeks, and somehow it is available fresh, never frozen, and I load up. The best fish dish I ever ate was a baby coho grilled over mesquite in Austin many years ago, provenance unknown.