The 10 Best Smoked Salmon

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This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in August of 2015. With its unmistakable aroma and distinct umami notes, nothing beats the taste of good smoked salmon -- on toast, on bagels, over poached eggs, in salads, or, quite frankly, with just about anything. Pick out your favorite salty, smoky, fishy treat from our comprehensive selection of this delicious, healthy, and relatively low-calorie food. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best smoked salmon on Amazon.

10. Chicken of the Sea

9. Kasilof Wild Alaskan

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8. Crown Prince Natural

7. Alaska Smokehouse Jumbo Pack

6. Art of Appreciation Basket

5. SeaBear Sockeye Fillet

4. Solex Catsmo Nova

3. Salty Girl Seafood Coho

2. Fairhaven Bay Seafood

1. SeaBear Trio

Be Delighted With Chicken Of The Sea

Most salmon found in supermarkets is of the cold smoked variety and comes from farmed populations.

Culinary delicacies are versatile in nature, meaning they can be prepared in a variety of different ways. Food has been at the heart of both the economic and social development of human cultures around the world for thousands of years. It helps to stabilize societies, create jobs, and bring both people and families together in order to create a sense of identity and tradition. As this holds true for the rich histories of many foods, an indulgence like smoked salmon is no different.

Smoked salmon is an umbrella term for the fish that refers to any type of salmon (e.g. wild, farm-raised, fillet, or steak) or any part of the fish that has ultimately undergone a hot or cold smoking process. Typically, the wet or dry curing process precedes the actual smoking process. Wet curing involves soaking the fish in a salty brine solution prior to smoking, whereas dry curing involves simply dehydrating the fish over the course of several days. Smoked salmon should not be confused with gravlax or lox.

Gravlax is a type of raw salmon cured in a mixture of salt, sugar, and seasoning for the purpose of dehydration and elimination of bacteria that could otherwise cause it to spoil. Gravlax is served thinly-sliced on top of crackers as an appetizer. Lox is known for its popularity as part of traditional Jewish cuisine and is made from the belly of the fish where it is salt-cured, but uncooked, leaving it with a silky and rich texture that lends itself well to serving on bagels with cream cheese and onions.

The process of smoking takes place when the fish is less than three years old, preserving its freshness and full flavor. The two main preparation styles include cold and hot smoked salmon. With the predominant and popular cold smoking process, the fish is filleted with its sides being covered in a layer of salt for up to six hours to cure it. During the curing process, the salt draws out moisture, prevents bacterial growth, kills microbes, and infuses the fish with flavor. The fish can then be dried for several hours before it is slowly exposed to smoke in an eighty to ninety-nine-degree Fahrenheit environment over the course of several days. In this environment, the fish isn't completely cooked, which makes its resulting texture moist, silky and delicate.

Cold smoked salmon is similar in texture to lox with an additional layer of oil and a subtle smoky flavor. It is typically sold sliced at deli counters or in vacuum-sealed, see-through packaging. It is perishable and should be consumed within a couple of weeks if not frozen. By contrast, the hot smoking process actually cooks the fish using direct heat in much the same way meats are cooked and smoked. It is cooked anywhere from six to twelve hours directly over a fire, or in an enclosure heated by fire, at up to one hundred eighty degrees Fahrenheit. The resulting texture of hot-smoked salmon is a consistency that is much firmer, drier, and with a more intense smoky flavor than the cold smoked variety. It can also be packaged with an un-refrigerated shelf life of up to five years.

Depending on the size of the fish, the length of time for the smoking process will vary when prepared inside a smokehouse. The flavor can also vary significantly, depending on the type of salmon being used (e.g. wild vs. farm-raised) as well as on the chosen method of smoking itself. For example, Scottish smoked salmon leverages wood chips from old whiskey or sherry casks for a truly distinct flavor. Most salmon found in supermarkets is of the cold smoked variety and comes from farmed populations.

Flavor Says It All

Eating smoked salmon provides the human body with several benefits in addition to simply offering a unique taste at a brunch spread or as part of a lavish dinner. It serves as a rich source of dietary proteins, fat, and iron to support healthy tissues and maintain superior memory function. Smoked salmon can also be sold as individually-wrapped servings that can either be stored in the freezer or in your refrigerator.

It serves as a rich source of dietary proteins, fat, and iron to support healthy tissues and maintain superior memory function.

One must determine the type of salmon that will taste best for the corresponding context, meaning that flavor consideration matters depending on how you plan to serve it to a group of people. Smoked wild salmon typically has a more intense flavor than that of the farm-raised variety, so if you and your family prefer a complex taste with a strong essence of smoke, purchasing wild smoked salmon at the grocery store is a great option if you can find it.

Do be aware that wild salmon often carries a higher price tag than the farmed variety, but some feel that it's worth the extra expense. You'll need to make that determination on your own with some possible trial and error. Also, many packaged smoked salmons include either one or a mix of different species, each with its own unique characteristics. That said, it's important to experiment with the different types until you find the one that most suits your preference and taste buds.

Next, you must consider how long the salmon will stay fresh should you choose to keep it frozen for an extended period of time. Many types of salmon can stay fresh for up to a year in your kitchen freezer, so you aren't limited to consuming it right away, thanks to its preservation.

Finally, decide whether you want cold or hot smoked salmon. While cold smoked fish will give you a subtle essence of the smoking process, the hot smoked variety is much more forward-tasting, which is perfect for serving it as a main course complemented by other dishes. Hot smoked salmon is particularly delicious with freshly-squeezed lemon juice on top.

A Brief History Of Smoked Salmon

Salmon has been a part of human culture for more than 20,000 years, being considered a food source, a sign of the ritual of passing seasons, emblematic creatures that embody mysterious knowledge, and a subject for artistic expression.

The process of smoking fish for preservation purposes has been around for centuries.

The process of smoking fish for preservation purposes has been around for centuries. The Native Americans, for example, have held salmon in very high regard (along with other animals), basing some of their cultural rituals around the fish's presence, as it was believed that mistreating the animal would cause the great spirits of the ocean to drive the salmon away.

Smoked salmon was first brought to the United Kingdom in the late 1800s by Eastern European immigrants to London. The fish was smoked in an effort to preserve it from spoiling with the lack of available refrigeration technology. The nineteenth century saw the beginnings of the American smoked salmon industry, first on the Pacific coast, where wild Pacific salmon from both Alaska and Oregon were caught between the spring and fall seasons. During World War Two, the smoking process was further developed in order to preserve salted fish so that it could travel for longer periods of time without spoiling.

The evolution of the modern railroad industry and, other means of long-distance transportation, allowed the Pacific smoked salmon market to expand significantly, helping the fish to become a major part of the American diet to this day.

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Gabrielle Taylor
Last updated on May 28, 2019 by Gabrielle Taylor

Originally from a tiny town in Virginia, Gabrielle moved to Los Angeles for a marketing internship at a well-known Hollywood public relations firm and was shocked to find that she loves the West Coast. She spent two years as a writer and editor for a large DIY/tutorial startup, where she wrote extensively about technology, security, lifestyle, and home improvement. A self-professed skincare nerd, she’s well-versed in numerous ingredients and methods, including both Western and Asian products. She is an avid home cook who has whiled away thousands of hours cooking and obsessively researching all things related to food and food science. Her time in the kitchen has also had the curious side effect of making her an expert at fending off attempted food thievery by her lazy boxer dog.

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