Smoked salmon is the star of the festive table and beyond, thanks to its pink-orange color, delicate flavor and delicacy. It is a fish product that has become increasingly appreciated and popular, thanks to modern production and farming techniques. However, to choose a good smoked salmon it is important to follow some simple tips, especially related to purchase and storage; in fact, when you arrive in front of the refrigerated counter it often becomes quite difficult to choose and understand which is the best one. So here's how to choose the right smoked salmon, bringing a good and safe product to the table.
Smoking: what it is and various methods
Smoking is an ancient and natural method used for the conservation of fish. Smoked salmon is obtained from Salmo salar, salmon from the Atlantic Ocean, which is subjected to this process after being filleted. Thanks to smoking, foods are subjected to the double action of salt and smoke; the salt removes water from the tissues, minimizing the aqueous solutions that could lead to the development of bacteria. The smoke, on the other hand, is produced by the combustion of some types of non-resinous wood, such as beech, oak, birch, poplar, chestnut and aromatic plants. The salmon is then cut into fillets which will be salted; once cleaned, the fish is dried. The last step is smoking, there are two types; cold smoking and hot smoking. The cold method provides temperatures between 20-25 degrees C, and it is preferable as the smoke acts slowly, from 12 to 18 hours, ensuring a longer storage period. The hot smoking instead requires that the salmon fillets are subjected to a temperature of 120 degrees C for the first 20 minutes, and then of 80 degrees C for another 3 hours. Furthermore, cold smoking guarantees the neutralization of any parasites such as Anisakis, very common in fish products.
Farmed salmon or wild salmon?
The choice between farmed salmon or wild salmon depends on personal tastes: farmed salmon, which belong to the salmo salar species and which are of Norwegian, Scottish or Irish origin, are usually the preferred ones, they are good and they also cost less than wild salmon and, if sourced from certified farms, they are also safer. Wild salmon come mainly from the Pacific Ocean and the most common are the Sockeye, red salmon; the compactness of their meat is drier and they cost twice as much as those farmed.
How to choose smoked salmon: the elements to evaluate
To choose the best smoked salmon, there are a few things to consider. With respect to the color, it is not always important to rely on this variable; in fact it is almost always farmed products and the color may vary according to the type of diet, but this does not compromise the organoleptic qualities. In these cases, the only rule to follow is that the color is uniform, without dry edges and without spots. To check the quality of the salmon, the size of the slices is certainly more indicative; if the slices are large they are prized salmon, while smaller slices are usually obtained from the tail. The latter can be used after cooking to season pasta or to prepare a filling. The thickness of the slices is also important; choose those of medium thickness, as the thin slices will tend to flake apart, while the double ones will give the fish a too intense flavor. Then remember to evaluate some characteristics of the package; salmon should be stored between 0 and 4 degrees C, so do not buy it if it is in places too far from the refrigerator.
What the sales label must say
Check the label before buying the salmon. Usually they are farmed salmon, an information that must be reported; also remember that the salmon species raised in Europe is only Salmo salar. A quality product must also say the packaging and expiry dates on the label; no more than 3 weeks must pass between the two. Also do not buy packages with expiration dates beyond 2 months and always check as long as they are not dull or soggy. Avoid packages that say "do not refreeze", because this means that the product has been already frozen. Also prefer dry salted products, as the brine treatment can change the compactness of the meat.
When you buy smoked salmon, store it in the refrigerator at a maximum of 4 degrees C and consume it within a few days. Once the package has been opened, wrap it in aluminum foil and store it in the refrigerator for a maximum of 2 days.