The Salmon Experiment: An Amateur’s Observation 5/08/12

Salmon is a fresh water fish that is often eaten raw as sashimi and its texture melts in your mouth.  According to The Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch, Alaskan salmon is the most dominant salmon sold in markets.

The purpose for this salmon experiment is to test the difference between wild salmon and farmed salmon.  What are the pros and cons of both fish?  How well does it pair with other ingredients and ultimately, which fish is better to eat?

The criteria that I’ll be focusing on to determine which fish is better follows these categories: cost, color, smell, skin appearance, fat content, texture, and of course, taste.  The reason I call this an amateur’s observation is because I am NOT an expert on the taste of salmon, I am however, looking at this as an average person, and determining why exactly do I love eating salmon.  Most of the observations that I’ve done, anyone else can reproduce.  It’s not exactly the perfect experiment, but its a basic test to see the differences.

THE SALMON:

Farmed:  The Alaskan Salmon I purchased came from my local Ralph’s.  It was $10.99/LB and farm raised from Chile.

Wild: The Wild Alaskan Salmon I purchased from my local Trader Joe’s.  It was a whopping $13.49/LB and came from the U.S.

THE EXPERIMENT: I cut a piece from each salmon specimens and cooked it under medium to medium high heat for one minute and thirty seconds per side.  These pieces were only cleaned with water and unseasoned.  The skin was cooked separately after it was cleaned of scales.

THE RESULTS:

COLOR: The first observation was the obvious difference in color.  Before it is cooked, the farmed salmon is a pale translucent pinkish peach color.  On the other hand the wild salmon is a deeper translucent reddish-orange color.  When cooked the farmed salmon becomes an opaque peach color and the wild salmon turns an opaque light red-orange.  Apparently the reddish color comes from the wild salmon’s diet of eating krill and shellfish (Wiki).

SMELL:  After opening the package, the farmed salmon had a very slight fish odor.  The wild salmon, on the other hand burst with fishiness.  The smell became less offensive once it was cleaned.

SKIN APPEARANCE:  The farmed salmon is darker on the top with black specks on its scales.  Note: the specks came off after I took off the scales leaving the skin nicer-looking.  The wild salmon was lighter and had smaller scales than the farmed salmon.  There were no spots and the gradient of the skin was less noticeable than the farmed salmon.

 

FAT CONTENT:  I determined this through cooking of the salmon skin.  The skin that had the most fat at the end of cooking, I determined had less fat than the one that still had a chewy texture to its skin.  The result here was that the farmed salmon had more fat on its skin than the wild salmon, which ended up having a crunchy texture.  Another part of which I thought was fat, were white parts in between the salmon’s meat.  During the cooking process the white part would ooze out, resulting in a less appealing piece of salmon.  This “white goo” is called serum albumin, which are basically blood proteins that coagulate when heated.  These were present in both fish.

TEXTURE:  I determined the texture of the fish after it had been cooked.  Obviously salmon has a different texture when it is raw, but I was too afraid to try it raw because the quality is questionable.  It’s not the same as sushi grade salmon.  I cooked it over medium heat and left it to cool for 5 minutes. I cooked the wild salmon for thirty seconds more because it was a bigger morsel than the farmed salmon, resulting in it be a little overcooked and slightly dry.  The farmed salmon was slightly softer and broke apart easily, while the wild salmon was firmer.

TASTE:  The true meat of this experiment relies on the taste of each salmon.  Both salmon were cleaned only with water and had nothing on it but a slight wipe of canola oil on the pan.  No salt or seasonings were used to conduct this experiment.  The whole point of eating the fish is to taste the fish!  The farmed salmon had a mild taste and had a slight fish after taste that melts in your mouth.  The wild salmon screamed fish well past the after taste. It’s a strong fish taste that really stands out.

CONCLUSION:

So which fish is overall better?  Personally, I like the wild salmon because it tastes exactly like it is, real fish.  Yet, I could see the benefits of using farmed salmon in dishes that involve more ingredients.  The wild salmon’s taste could overpower a dish’s other ingredients and would be best eaten on its own or with minimal ingredients.  The farmed fish is definitely more affordable than the wild salmon (my pockets cried as I forked over the money). Yet it would make sense for the expense since wild salmon is caught in the ocean.  You’re basically paying for the boat ride.

An important note to be aware of is the health benefits as well as dangers of salmon. Salmon makes the list on The World’s Healthiest Foods. It is high in protein, high in Omega-3’s, and Vitamin D.  But, there are traces of polychlorinated biphenyls found in most farmed fish and is less likely in wild salmon.

Salmon can be eaten raw, smoked, baked, grilled, pan-fried, and steamed. Salmon whether wild or farmed is still number one in my heart.

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