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  • Tu David Phu

Tips for Selecting, Storing, and Cooking Salmon

This edited article is from Chef Tu, an independent website and is republished on Chopsticks Alley as part of a content-sharing agreement.

“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's secrets on how to buy, store and cook salmon so tyou will never have to deal with “fishy, dry or flavorless,” salmon ever again.

Buying Salmon Salmon season is constantly changing due to 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 would you recommend?

Check the Quality of the Fish Eyes The eyes should be clear and shiny. Blood shot eyes is a sign of damage and abuse during transportation. Gills The gills should be vibrant red. Any discoloration that resembles brown is a clear sign that the fish is really old.

Flesh 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. Smell Fish should smell like the ocean. If its starts to smell fishy, it’s a clear sign that it's 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 oceans/rivers where water temperatures never exceed 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider this when leave groceries in your car. Your car easily can jump to 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 monger for ice as well. They will always pack some free of charge.

At home

Do not cover with plastic wrap. The flesh needs to breathe. Lay your deboned and scaled filet(s) between two linen napkins (stay away from rags). Rest for at least 4 hours if possible in refrigerator before cooking. Keep it in the coldest section of your fridge (41-45 degrees). Keep your filet(s) refrigerated until you are ready to cook. The fish should not sit at room temperature for more than 15 minutes.

How to Cook

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Chef Tu David Phu - Oakland, CA Chef Tu's resume reflects a reverence for American culinary greats, skilled in classical European traditions. His stints include the nation’s top Michelin-rated restaurants: Chez Panisse, Quince, Acquerello, Daniel Boulud, Breslin, Gotham Bar & Grill and Gramercy Tavern. Most recently, Chef Tu was Executive Chef of Gather in Berkeley. He would like the opportunity to introduce to diners regional Vietnamese flavor profiles. Vietnamese food is so much more than Banh-mi, Pho and Spring Rolls.

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