Which smoked salmon is best?
Salmon is one of the most popular types of fish around the world. It’s an oily fish with distinctive pink flesh and high protein and omega-3 fatty acid content. Its high oil content and firm texture make it a particularly popular candidate for smoking and curing. Historically, nearly every culture that eats salmon has a number of smoked salmon recipes and a different preparation method.
These days, it’s a popular brunch food, gift or snack. One of the best smoked salmon options is SeaBear Smoked Salmon Trio, containing three types of sustainably fished Pacific salmon.
What to know before you buy smoked salmon
Types of smoked salmon
Cold smoked salmon: Cold smoked salmon is the most common variety of smoked salmon. In the U.S., this generally refers to nova, sometimes called nova lox. Nova is traditionally cold smoked salmon from off the coast of Nova Scotia. These days, it’s far and away from the most popular type of smoked salmon out there. When most people ask for lox, they’re actually referring to nova.
Hot smoked salmon: Hot smoked salmon includes varieties like kippered and wood-smoked salmon, prepared with brine then smoked over higher heat, usually at around 145 degrees. These kinds of smoked salmon have a flakier texture and a more pronounced smoky flavor since they’re truly cooked in the smoking process. Most Pacific Northwest-style smoked salmon is hot smoked.
Cured salmon: Cured salmon isn’t actually smoked, and it’s generally not as fishy or as smoky as truly smoked salmon. Popular preparations like lox (salt cured) and gravlax (cured in a mixture of salt, sugar, spices and alcohol) are brined, but not smoked, unlike cold smoked salmon, which is often brined before being smoked.
Types of salmon
Atlantic: Most smoked salmon that you buy in the grocery store is Atlantic salmon like nova lox. Atlantic salmon is predominantly farmed and widespread throughout the Atlantic basin. Generally there’s no nutritional difference between farmed and wild salmon.
Pacific: Pacific salmon is found on the Pacific coast and is often smoked using techniques traditional to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Pacific salmon, due to strict fish farming laws, is generally wild-caught. There are five types of Pacific salmon you’ll commonly see:
- Chinook/king: This is the largest and most expensive variety of Pacific salmon. It has a high fat content and light-pink flesh.
- Sockeye: Sockeye salmon is notable for its deep red color and is prized for its flavor, and it has the second-highest fat content of any Pacific salmon.
- Coho/silver: Also known as silver salmon, cohos have a slightly lower fat content and benefit from cold smoking when being prepared as smoked fish.
- Pink: Pink salmon is the most commonly caught and eaten type of Pacific salmon, as well as the smallest. Pink salmon’s population numbers have been reliably high since the 1980s and it’s grown in popularity as a sustainable option.
- Chum: Chum salmon, as the name implies, was disregarded as a high-end food source for a long time. Overfishing and changing oceans mean it has become more commonly eaten by humans and highly prized as time goes on.
What to look for in quality smoked salmon
The quality of the fish is the first thing to look for in smoked salmon. If it’s wild, make sure it’s sustainably fished, and if it’s farmed, make sure it’s from a respectable farm.
Check to make sure you purchase the style of smoked salmon you want, whether hot smoked or cold smoked. Different varieties of smoked salmon have wildly different tastes, colors and textures, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for in salmon products. Different varieties are prepared in different ways.
How much you can expect to spend on smoked salmon
Smoked salmon typically runs from $1.20 per ounce to over $2.00 per ounce, depending on the fish used and the process of preparing it.
Smoked salmon FAQ
Is smoked salmon healthy?
A. Salmon is highly nutritious, containing lots of protein, omega-3s and vitamin D. However, both farmed and wild salmon can contain varying levels of pollutants like PCBs and mercury. Currently, the FDA lists salmon, both wild and farmed, as having low levels of mercury, but it’s always best to be aware of how much fish you’re consuming. Large oily fish, in particular, can accumulate pollutants at a higher rate than other fish.
What’s the best smoked salmon to buy?
Top smoked salmon
What you need to know: A highly rated smoked salmon option, it’s hot smoked and contains three kinds of salmon: sockeye, coho and pink.
What you’ll love: It’s sustainably fished. Reviewers write that it’s flavorful and tender.
What you should consider: It comes at a higher price point than other options.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top smoked salmon for the money
Alaska Seafood Naturally Wild Smoked Salmon
What you need to know: A lower-priced option that still delivers big flavor, it’s made of pink salmon, so the texture is a little different than sockeye options.
What you’ll love: It’s hand-filleted and traditionally prepared in Alaska.
What you should consider: Some reviewers were dissatisfied with the texture of the fish.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Fairhaven Bay Seafoods Wild Smoked Salmon Trio
What you need to know: It contains a trio of flavors: sockeye, pink and peppered sockeye brined and Alderwood-smoked.
What you’ll love: It comes in a wooden box for convenient gifting. It is high quality with a high-end taste.
What you should consider: The fish comes packed in liquid, which some reviewers disliked.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Arabella Matthews writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.