A side-by-side blind taste test of 5 species of salmon

Sonia - July 13, 2016

Have you tasted all 5 species of salmon? Do you have a favourite? Have you ever tried them all side-by-side to really see how they all size up? Neither had we! Last Friday, Skipper Ottos’ staff got together and tried it out. The results were fascinating, surprising, and delicious!

staff BBQ group photo
Skipper Otto’s staff gathered around for a blind-taste-test of all 5 species of salmon

The Method

Here’s how it worked:

  • all 5 species  of salmon were treated the same way
    • each fillet was carefully laid out on its own cedar plank which had been soaked all day in water
    • I sprinkled each with salt and pepper
    • I crushed garlic and mixed it with olive oil to make a paste which we spread on all the fillets
    • I added dabs of butter for extra flavour
  • each cedar plank was labelled A, B, C, D, and E and the “answer key” was hidden away so only the cook (Sonia!) knew which was which
  • staff labelled their paper plates with the same system so when they were served, they could tell the pieces apart
  • everyone was given paper and pen and asked not to try to guess the names of the samples but instead to spend time savouring the unique flavour of each piece and attempting to describe it.
  • Once everyone had time to enjoy their samples, and write out some notes, we shared our thoughts and, finally, voted on our top choices


The Observations

Here are some of our staff’s observations when they didn’t know which species was which:

A (Pink Salmon):

  • clean flavour
  • buttery
  • “umami”
  • could be higher in oil than C?

B (Coho Salmon):

  • distinct salmon taste
  • thinner so was a little over cooked
  • maybe lower in oil as it was more dry?
  • a mild/ light flavour
  • took the smoke well

C (Chum Salmon):

  • “the perfect salmon!”
  • lighter than A? Not as oily?
  • flavourful and fat
  • mild
  • “kelpy”

D (Chinook Salmon):

  • “a buttery party in my mouth”
  • “a salmon-y dream”
  • a thick chunk of meat
  • thick, rare parts were the best

E (Sockeye Salmon):

  • similar to B
  • oily, rich
  • best tasting skin
  • clean
  • the most beautiful colour: “just looks best, but doesn’t necessarily taste better than the others.”

The Results

In the end, choosing favourites was tough. Everyone agreed that all the salmon were delicious and, although after much discussion, there was a majority vote first place, choosing second, or third was a bit like splitting hairs.

Now, I’m no “Chef Ned Bell” and I was trying to cook 5 pieces of salmon of varying thicknesses on the same BBQ, so some were more cooked than others. The thicker pieces which were more rare were generally preferred.

The chinook salmon was so thick and meaty, buttery, rich, and flavourful. It’s thickness also meant it was the most rare and this certainly contributed to some of our preference for it, so it was chosen by more than half as their favourite. We only have a very small amount of chinook at the Wharf right now which was bycatch in the Nass, but we’re hoping to have an abundant supply of it in August when Nootka Sound opens for chinook fishing.

The coho piece had a wonderful flavour and held the smoke taste quite well. It was Chris’s favourite. Also interesting was that pink and chum were chosen as favourites and second choices by many of us. These two species of salmon are the lowest priced species and often overlooked. But in a blind taste test, they were loved.

Trying to choose a clear winner was a bit like splitting hairs. Everyone had their own personal preferences, but the main take-away lessons here are clear:

  1. all 5 species of salmon are delicious!
  2. don’t overcook your salmon!

Thinking of trying out your own side-by-side taste test? We’d love to hear the results! Email us your stories and photos to [email protected].

Sonia - July 13, 2016

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A side-by-side blind taste test of 5 species of salmon

Sonia - July 13, 2016

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