Known for its bright red flesh, sockeye salmon is a wild salmon species. The majority of sockeye salmon available to consumers comes from the lakes and rivers of Alaska. Their diet and environment make them very meaty and contribute to their high oil content. These characteristics make them a great fish to eat as fillets or as cured slices. Some people have strong preferences for or against smoking sockeye for various reasons. We will list some reasons on both sides and weigh in on the discussion at the end.
Fresh or Smoked Sockeye?
There are a few factors that come to mind when considering whether you like the idea of smoking sockeye. One reason you may not want to have sockeye smoked is the smoke flavor. Some may argue that the smoke takes away from the pure flavor of the fish. Food and Wine says that sockeye have the strongest salmon flavor of all the species. Given this, eating the salmon as a fillet might be the better way to taste the fish.
A second factor to preferring fresh sockeye over smoked sockeye is the price. Fillets of sockeye are cheaper than a package of smoked salmon. This might be a dealbreaker for some. Buying the fillets fresh gives you many options for preparation that you might not otherwise have with smoked salmon. For a weeknight meal, you would be more likely to buy the cheaper but still delicious sockeye salmon that is not smoked.
There are reasons to prefer smoked sockeye, too. First, sockeye has the ideal oil content for smoking. According to Smoker Cooking, sockeye, since it has more oil, becomes very flavorful and develops a buttery texture after smoking. It is truly one of the best types of salmon to use for the smoking process. While some think the smoke flavor is a reason to stick to fresh sockeye, others buy the smoked kind for the smoke flavor.
Since smoked salmon has a distinctly smokey flavor, it is best to use it with simple ingredients and with little manipulation. Many people buy smoked salmon knowing it will be the featured ingredient. Some find this limiting. Others appreciate the specialty ingredient and like to highlight it in a recipe.
What We Think
We understand both viewpoints on the smoked sockeye debate. In our opinion, you should give smoked sockeye salmon a try. It may be a bit more expensive given the extra processing required. However, sockeye is the best variety of salmon to use for smoking. Pairing the smoked salmon on a bagel with cream cheese makes for a delightful brunch. The flavor of the fresh salmon is only enhanced with the smoking process, so the taste is not in jeopardy.
Wherever your opinion falls on sockeye, you can easily find both options for sale from online seafood sellers. Keep an open mind. The good thing about smoked salmon is that it often comes in 6-ounce packages, a great size to sample the product.
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