Pacific Salmon is both a delicious and responsible choice
Summertime barbecues shouldn’t be limited to burgers, dogs, ribs and steaks. One of my favorite seafood dishes is fresh salmon grilled with a little BBQ spice blend. The sweet, salty and spicy spice mix is the perfect complement for the richness of our omega-rich, finned friends from the Pacific Northwest and we’re in the midst of their peak season.
Chinook salmon are the largest Pacific salmon. Found throughout the North Pacific, these salmon complete long migrations of up to 1,000 miles to return to their birth river. The large fat reserves needed for their long migration gives the chinooks a pronounced, buttery, rich taste, which allow it to stand up to hearty spices and flavorings.
As delicious and healthy as fresh salmon is there’s also another very important reason to enjoy this fish because it is on what’s known as the Gold List. As a restaurant partner in the Long Beach Aquarium’s Seafood for the Future program, JFAT is committed to serving only sustainable and renewable seafood species and those that are properly harvested. The U.S. is widely recognized for having some of the best managed fisheries in the world, yet we continue to import more than a whopping 90% of our seafood and some of these imports come from countries with very questionable fishing and farming practices. So how do you find the answer to “Which fish should I eat?”
Fish are managed according to where they are found and how they are caught, or in the case of aquaculture by the species and method of production. It is important to understand some of the critical elements about the species, method of harvest or production, the effectiveness of current management, and potential ecosystem impacts that may result from the fishery or farm. Seafood for the Future has done the research and compiled a list of responsible choices to choose from so you can make informed seafood choices. Please check out SFF’s website and their suggested list of species to enjoy.
OK, so I’ll get off my soapbox for now and get back to some grillin! The flavor of salmon is so distinctive on its own that you really need to do very little to it but the one cardinal sin you can commit when preparing it is to overcook it. If you cook salmon until it’s well done you’re really depriving yourself of enjoying this delicacy. I think it should be prepared medium in order to suit all tastes and still remain moist. I’m not talking sushi here Bubba, but that does mean it’s going to be still pink and moist on the inside. I’m sure you’ve all seen the wholly unappetizing white gunk that seeps out of salmon when overcooked. It’s just coagulated protein but it’s a sure sign that you’re about to tuck into a very dry piece of fish.
So no recipe today guys… just a few photos and some tips on cooking the salmon. Whatever you are going to serve with the salmon you’ll want to have it all prepared ahead of time because your salmon will continue to cook for a brief period after you talk it off the grill so you can’t afford to be fussing around with anything else…the fish comes off the grill and is served…pronto! So first tip is to make sure that your grill is good and hot. We’re looking to just ‘mark’ it on both sides…the heat generated in doing this will start to cook the fish toward the center so you don’t want it sitting on the grill long anyway. You’ll also want to make sure the grill grates are scrubbed as clean as possible prior to throwing the fish on and that they are also well oiled to prevent the salmon from sticking. Using tongs you can dip a crumbled up paper towel into some vegetable oil and run it across the grates, or easier still, just spray them with some non-stick spray but be careful as this will cause a brief flare up.
Next you want to make sure you salmon is well oiled on both sides. I rub olive oil on the fish first, then sprinkle with the barbecue spice blend and then just before hitting the grilled I give it another light brushing of oil. Note here that you don’t want the fish to be swimming in the oil as this surely will cause a flare-up and your coral colored beauties will become covered in a black, oily film. So when you’re ready to go carefully place the salmon on the grill ‘show side’ down, which means the flesh side.
Allow to cook about 2-3 minutes until well-marked and the fish releases from the grill when you pry up one corner. If it still sticks leave it on the grill until you can slide you can turn it without tearing the flesh and leaving half your fish stuck on the grill. (Bonus Tip…invest in a fish spatula. It’s an oversized version that fits under the entire fillet making flipping them so much easier).
Once you’ve flipped the salmon allow it to cook for only about 2 minutes more. With enough practice you can tell whether it’s cooked enough by pressing on it with your finger. It should be soft and give easily to the touch…not firm. Writing this reminds me of the first time I grilled a steak for my ex-wife. The queen of the microwave asked “Why are you poking my steak?” As an alternative to all that offensive ‘poking’ you can use a quick read thermometer inserted into the center of the fillets cooked until it reaches 120 degrees.
Quick Read Thermometer
OK now… go enjoy all that delicious BBQ spiced salmon and feel good about your choice at the same time!