Silver salmon, also called coho salmon, is part of the Pacific salmon family. When compared to other fish in the salmon family, it is the in-between salmon. It's not too big, not too small. It's fatty, but not the fattiest. It's firm, but not the firmest. And finally, it's pricey, but not nearly the priciest salmon you can buy.
The Silver Salmon Season and Stats
Silvers are caught from Oregon to Alaska, and typically run starting in June and last until September. When the silver salmon first appear in the ocean and in rivers, they are a pretty chrome color with silver sides and dark blue backs. When they head upstream to breed, they turn deep red color. Once they turn this shade or develop a recognizable crooked mouth, coho salmon are basically inedible. Because of this change, silver or coho salmon are a delicacy and should be enjoyed when you are able to buy them.
Most silver salmons are between 8 to 12 pounds, although there are records of silver salmons that have been caught that weigh over 30 pounds, although this is rare. Their meat, like most salmon, is an orange/pink color. It gets this color from the krill they eat at sea. A coho will not be as orangey-red as a sockeye or a king. It will be about the same color as a farmed Atlantic salmon.
Buying Coho Salmon
This type of salmon is usually available in stores during the months of July to October. You will likely find silver salmon available fresh and frozen, headed, gutted, and sold in a variety of cuts. Coho salmon has a mild flavor and a medium firm texture when compared to other types of salmon. You can use silvers in any typical salmon recipe. When buying, look for fresh, firm looking fish that appears moist. Moisture is a good indicator of freshness; avoid any fish that appears dried out. Also, avoid any fish with brown spots, cloudy eyes, or areas where the skin has started to brown or curl up.
Perfect for Poaching and Smoking
Silver salmon have less fat than sockeyes or kings, but more than pinks or chum salmon. This means a coho can dry out faster than the other species, making coho salmon an ideal poaching fish. Their relatively low-fat content benefits from the gentle cooking, which keeps it moist.
Silvers are perfectly good smoked, although perhaps not as good as kings or sockeyes. You need to use a cold smoking process instead of a hot smoking process due to the fish's lower fat content. Silvers also do well as gravlax, the Scandinavian cured salmon, and they are great as sushi. If you are serving it raw, buy only the freshest fish or buy it frozen and put it into the deep-freeze for a few days to maintain freshness.
Super to Slice and Sautee
A favorite way to cook silver salmon is to slice it into cutlets, then lightly dust it with flour, and saute it in walnut or olive oil. This would be delicious served with a French rouille sauce. Silvers benefit from this sort of cooking, while king salmon might feel too greasy done this way. You can also slice the skin of a coho (or any other salmon) into thin strips and fry them slowly until they're crispy. This is a great way to enjoy a healthy part of the fish. The skin typically has a thin layer of fat on the underside, which is loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids.