“Fishy, dry and flavorless,” are the common complaints that I encounter with diners who dislike salmon.  In this guide I will give you my chef secrets on how to buy, store and cook salmon so that you will never have to deal with “fishy, dry or flavorless,” salmon ever again.

 Salmon on Sale at Pike Place Market in Seatlle

Salmon on Sale at Pike Place Market in Seatlle




Buying Salmon

Salmon season is constantly changing due to the salmon population growth. Different varietals/species are better used in different times of the season. The person to ask is your local fish monger/counter. Find one that your trust and ask you fish monger these questions:

1.     What is in season?

2.     When was this caught? How and where?

3.     This is what I am trying to make…. What you would you recommend?


Check the Quality of the Fish



 The eyes are nice and white not blood shot.

The eyes are nice and white not blood shot.

The eyes should be clear and shiny. Blood shot eyes is a sign of damage and abuse during transportation.



 Another great technique to check the freshness of a fish. Works every time.

Another great technique to check the freshness of a fish. Works every time.

The gills should be vibrant red. Any discoloration that resembles brown is a clear sign that the fish is really old.



The flesh should be firm and bounce back when you press the flesh. Soft flesh is a sign that the fish is old and deteriorating


Slime Factor

When checking the flesh for firmness, run your finger along the skin. All market fish should have scales on. Scales should only be removed when you are planning to prep and cook it the same day. The scales should be slimy. It is a natural “layer” of protection for the fish’s body from ocean parasites and bacteria. In essence, fish slime is a form of skin. Without the skin, the flesh of the fish is exposed to bacteria which results into speedier decomposition.



Fish should smell like the ocean. If its starts to smell fishy, it’s a clear sign that its old. Once a fish has an unpleasant smell, it’s nearly impossible to serve. Smelly fish is clear sign of temperature abuse.



Fish is a highly perishable product. They live in the oceans/rivers where water temperatures never exceed 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  Consider this when your groceries are in your car. Your car easily can jump 100 degrees Fahrenheit on a warm day. Pre-plan your trip to the market and put an igloo in the trunk of your car to keep the fish out of the heat. Ask your fish monger for ice as well. They will be always more than willing to pack ice for you free of charge. 

At Home

Do not cover with plastic wrap. The flesh needs to breathe.

Lay your de-boned and scaled filet(s) between two linen napkins. (stay away from rags)

Rest for at least 4 hours if possible in refrigerator before cooking if possible.

Keep it in the coldest section of your fridge (41-45 degrees).

Keep your filet(s) refrigerator until you are ready to cook. It should not sit at room temperature for more than 15 minutes.  

How to Cook

Chef Tu David Phu gives away his secret on how to cook the perfect Salmon and some plating techniques as well!

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