Smoked salmon occupies a special place in our festive meals. Origin, breeding conditions, labels … how to choose it?
Wild smoked salmon or farmed smoked salmon?
Wild salmon has the advantage of providing a good omega-3 content and a little more micronutrients (iodine, phosphorus, potassium, selenium) because it feeds on marine fish. But it can be contaminated with heavy metals mercury type due to ocean pollution. The risk is lower with farmed salmon but its richness in omega-3 depends on its food (fish or vegetable meal). Finally, farmed salmon are fatter and sometimes receive antibiotic treatments.
Both are interesting from a nutritional point of view. On the taste side, wild salmon is more “sporty”, therefore its flesh is firmer and its taste more pronounced due to a varied diet. It is also pinker because it is rich in astaxanthin, a natural coloring present in shrimp. Farmed salmon are naturally gray due to their diet, and breeders add a synthetic version of astaxanthin to achieve the desired shade.
Atlantic or Pacific: which is the best smoked salmon?
90% of farmed salmon is Atlantic salmon. This name does not correspond to a geographical origin but to a species, the salmo salar, which can also come from the Baltic Sea or the Chilean coasts. Most of the smoked salmon sold in Europe are farmed in Norway, Scotland or Ireland.
Wild version, we find mainly Pacific salmon : sockeye or silver salmon caught in Alaska have a good reputation because the sea is less polluted there. But warnings have been issued by the Norwegian government on farmed salmon caught more than 100 meters deep because of the presence of pollutants. The ideal therefore remains to vary the origins and not always buy the same one.
Is smoked salmon as interesting as a salmon steak?
On the omega-3 side, fatty acids beneficial for cardiovascular health, the content is equivalent and sometimes even higher in smoked salmon, because the salting process concentrates the nutrients and it is not cooked (omega-3 fear heat) .
Smoked salmon is no fatter than a salmon steak (11 to 14 g of lipids / 100 g). It is also interesting for its proteins: a slice of 35 g provides nearly 7 g, that is to say as much as an egg, a slice of ham or 100 g of cottage cheese. Finally, it is rich in vitamin D: one slice covers 15 to 20% of the recommended intake (5 μg / day).
On the other hand, the big weak point of smoked salmon is its salt content: on average 3 g / 100 g against less than 0.2 g naturally present in a salmon steak. To be limited in particular so as not to increase the risk of hypertension.
Smoking, salting, ribs … how do you recognize a good smoked salmon?
A good smoked salmon must bear the mention “smoked in the wood of” followed by the name of a type species oak or beech. This means that it has been smoked in the traditional way by slow combustion. If it is just written “smoked”, the manufacturer may have sprayed a liquid with a smoky taste on the fish (you can also find the mention “smoked flavor” in the list of ingredients).
He must have undergone a “salting with dry salt” and not an injection of brine (common for salmon at very low cost): this process injects water and swells the weight of the salmon in the process but makes the texture more spongy.
The mention the reference “never frozen” is a plus so as not to reduce the omega-3 content. At the eye, avoid those with large white veins, a sign of a more fatty fish or those with a lot of brown color, a sign that it has been poorly sliced. The edges should not be dry, yellow or brown.
Good to know: the lemon squeeze that is often added to smoked salmon is not necessarily a good idea! It cooks the salmon and changes its taste, it’s a shame when it is of good quality. Better a turn of the pepper mill to spice it up.
Is organic smoked salmon better?
The organic label only exists for farmed salmon. It ensures more space with a maximum authorized density, important if one is sensitive to animal welfare. The food must also be of high quality with organic cereals, and drug treatments are kept to a minimum. But paradoxically, organic salmon is also more contaminated with heavy metals than traditional farmed salmon, in particular because it is more often fed on fish. The best is to alternate with the other salmon.
Red label or MSC label: which label can you trust to choose your smoked salmon?
To avoid overfishing affecting wild salmon, choose the MSC label. For farmed salmon, the ASC label imposes local species, a sustainable production method and control of the drugs administered.
As to Red label, it imposes constraints both on breeding (growth at sea for a minimum of 13 months, diet rich in products of marine origin, etc.), and on processing (salting with dry salt, smoking within 7 days of the date , etc.), and prohibits freezing. But the same downside as for organic salmon: it may be more contaminated.
What is the best brand of smoked salmon?
Pros, cons … six smoked salmon have been scrutinized by our experts.
The most original:Smoked salmon to slice on a string with pink berries, Guyader
The plus: A farmed salmon to slice, easy to serve, to put directly on the festive table for the aperitif or the starter. Frozen product.
Price: € 4.70 for 90 g = € 52.22 / kg
The dietician’s opinion: It is the fattest salmon of the selection, with a higher proportion of saturated fatty acids. The salt content, although high, is in the low range compared to its competitors.
The opinion of Didier Trantacosta: The idea is nice for the aperitif, but too bad to have left the skin underneath because it complicates the cutting! The salmon is beautiful and the pairing with the pink berries works well, but there is a little too much. It imbalances the taste.
The least fatty: Wild smoked salmon from Alaska, Round of the seas, Marque Repère
The plus: Wild salmon at a low price with MSC certification. The cheapest of our selection. Frozen product.
The price: € 5.67 for 4 slices (120 G) = € 47.25 / kg.
The dietician’s opinion: As it is a wild salmon, the fat content is much lower (4.4% fat compared to 11/12% on average for farmed salmon), which also makes it the lowest in calories. of the selection. The protein content (24 g / 100 g) is very interesting. But 3.2 g of salt is really a lot!
The opinion of Didier Trantacosta: Since it has been frozen, the slices come off badly. The flesh is thick and quite dry (it was cut into the tail), as is often the case with the Pacific sockeye species. Very dirty. Use in salmon pasta rather than toast.
The most traceable: Smoked salmon Norway, Small ship
The plus: The MSC label for sustainable fishing, with information on product traceability.
Price: € 6.20 for 4 slices (120 G) = € 51.66 / kg
The dietician’s opinion: It has a fairly high lipid content (13%). On the other hand, the salt content, although high (2.2 g / 100 g) is lower than most of its competitors (around 3 g). This should not all the same make us forget that it remains a very salty food, to be consumed occasionally!
The opinion of Didier Trantacosta: The slicing is correct, a little thick but there are no white parts. It smells good and looks well balanced. On the palate, it is a little pasty and leaves a pungent taste that stings at the end of the tasting. Perhaps a quality problem with this production.
Best value for money: Scottish smoked salmon, Delpeyrat
The plus: Even if it does not have a label, the salmon are fed without GMOs, without growth hormones and without terrestrial animal meal, with a limited breeding density.
Price: € 6.99 for 4 slices (130 G) = € 53.77 / kg
The dietician’s opinion: It offers a good protein content (23 g / 100 g) and is not too rich in lipids. The salt content is average. A fairly balanced salmon, which does not blow up the meters.
The opinion of Didier Trantacosta: It has little smell but a very nice slice, quite fine, which makes you want to. We can see that it has been cut into the collar, the softer part, and it is quite oily, which is a pretty good sign. Very good to taste, pleasant on the palate and not too salty. Just lacking in smoke.
Organic: Organic smoked salmon, Labeyrie
The plus: The organic label which guarantees a salmon fed without GMOs and a breeding in low density.
Price: € 7.20 for 4 slices (120 G) = € 60 / kg
The dietician’s opinion: It is a little higher in fat, therefore slightly more caloric than the average. The salt content is high, but average for this type of product. Frozen product.
The opinion of Didier Trantacosta: Visually, it has a very nice appearance, with fairly wide edges. Little smell of smoke. It comes apart a bit, which is common when salmon have been frozen. The result is good and not too salty but rather neutral: it lacks a bit of character for my taste!
The least salty: Salmon from France, William & James
The plus: A salmon from the only two French farms, in Cherbourg and near Isigny, with small productions.
Price: € 7.90 for 4 slices (100 G) = € 80 / kg
The dietician’s opinion: Local production is ecologically interesting. A particularly low salt content (1.65 g / 100 g) is always better even if it remains a lot. The lipid content is correct and the amount of omega-3 is indicated on the label (1.5 g / 100 g), which is interesting.
The opinion of Didier Trantacosta: The appearance is really pretty and it smells very good, with a little nutty smell, very different from the others. The slices are small but it is tasty, well balanced and not too salty. A real success, we feel that it is done in an artisanal way!
As a reminder, before buying a smoked salmon, we check:
1. The smoking method: it must be mentioned “smoked with wood”.
2. Salting: look for the words “dry salting” or “dry salt”.
3. The labels: MSC for wild salmon and ASC or Label Rouge for farmed salmon.
4- Content sel: as low as possible, as close as possible to 2 g / 100 g.