The Basics of Salmon Varieties

Salmon is an excellent source of protein, B-vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Which one to choose? There’s a reason they call it King Salmon – it’s at the top in quality. Sockeye and Silver are great tasting, too, and provide a more affordable option.  Chum and Pink salmons are the best for smoking. Here are some specifics at a glance:

King Salmon (aka Chinook)

  • Largest of the salmon species (10-50 pounds typically, although the commercial-caught record is 126 pounds)
  • Highest oil content (what gives a salmon its rich flavor)
  • Black spots on its tail and the upper half of its body

Sockeye Salmon (aka Red Salmon)

  • The slimmest salmon (weigh up to 7 pounds)
  • Valued for high oil content and ability to hold their bright red color
  • Sockeye populations that remain in landlocked lakes are called “Kokanee” Salmon

Silver Salmon (aka Coho)

  • Middle weight (up to 15 pounds)
  • Most popular among game fishers
  • Known for orange-red flesh, superior texture and excellent eye appeal

Chum Salmon (aka Keta)

  • 6 – 12 pounds
  • Milder flavored and more lean than Silver, Sockeye and King Salmon. Yet it still has enough firmness and oil content to lend itself to a wide variety of cooking applications
  • Light pink to orange-colored flesh

Steaks vs. Fillets

  • Steaks are cross-sections of the fish; great on the grill because they hold together well
  • Fillets, cut from the side of the fish, offer plenty of crisp skin, which many people enjoy. Fillets often contain small “pin” bones. To see how to remove them, see our Culinary How-To video on the topic!


  • To refrigerate, wrap in plastic wrap, put in a plastic bag and place in a colander of ice. Set the colander in a bowl, in the fridge
  • To freeze, wrap tightly in several layers of plastic wrap and place in freezer bag. Leave in freezer for up to two months; defrost in the refrigerator before cooking

 Note:  It’s best to cook your salmon the day you buy it. But it will hold for a day or two.