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Sitka, AK


Frozen-at-Sea Alaskan Salmon 



Now that you have your fish you are about to embark upon what many people consider to be the most intimidating part of the process: cooking it. Luckily for you we are here with a plethora of ideas and easy,  step-by-step how-to tutorials to get you to dinner as painlessly as possible. 


Though this has gone a bit out of fashion, cooking a whole salmon is a relatively simple way to a delicious meal. In addition, it makes for a breathtaking centerpiece at any large family dinner or holiday.  The first thing you need to do is thaw your fish. 

Thawing A Salmon

To thaw your whole, frozen-at-sea salmon first remove it from the packaging it came in. Lay the fish flat on a baking sheet or oven proof pan and cover entirely with a rectangular piece of food grade plastic wrap. Put the fish in your refrigerator and leave covered until thawed, which may be as long as two days (depending on the size). Check the inside of the stomach cavity to ensure that the fish has thawed all the way to the core. 

Once thaw rinse thoroughly to remove all the saltwater glaze. This is also a good time to scale the fish. To do this I use the sharp edge of a large kitchen knife held perpendicular to the side of the skin. Most people prefer the back of the knife so as to not run the risk of slipping and cutting themselves or their fish, though I think this is less effective. Use vigorous scraping motions to remove any loose scales (I would recommend you do this into the sink with the water running). It should feel somewhat like you are shaving the fish. Note that you should apply even pressure which, though firm, should not be so aggressive it bruises the meat. If you have a particularly large fish, or an uncommonly small sink, you can also do this into the bathtub for easy cleanup. 

The videos below showing how to fillet a salmon also demonstrate correct scaling technique. 

Cooking a Whole Salmon

We will let Gordon take it from here. Don't worry, he'll be nice. 

moderately difficult: steaking a whole salmon

This is a traditional way of dealing with a whole, frozen fish that you don't want to have to thaw. Use a sharp, clean handsaw and cut the fish at the perpendicular, as though you are sawing through a round log of firewood. The only reason this rates as moderately difficult is because frozen fish are uncompromisingly hard, and can be slippery (you may want to place a towel under the fish to mitigate this problem). You can cut the fish into as many, or as few, pieces as possible. If you have a large fish, or a small family, and want to follow Gordon Ramsay's recipe above, you can cut it (the fish, not your family) into thirds and then cook each portion. Or you can cut your fish into thinner, individualized steaks and grill or pan-fry them. 

Stop steaking when you reach the end of the belly cavity. The tail is easily baked whole and is difficult to steak. 

The advantage to steaking a frozen fish is that it allows you to only take as much out of the freezer as you want to eat that day, leaving the rest in perfect frozen form for another occasion.

Check back here for a video of how to do this, one will be posted shortly. 


For those adventurous souls who want to try their hand at this (or those experienced sourdoughs who already know what they are doing) filleting and portioning a salmon is an elegant, conventional, and technically demanding way of dealing with your fish. Here are two different takes from two different (though it seems both French) professionals on how best to go about it. 

A Note About Thawing and Refreezing

The reason our fish can be frozen and yet so perfectly resemble a fresh, recently caught fish is in large part due to the state-of-the-art blast freezing technology that we use. I describe it as cryogenics for salmon. It gets core temperature down to thirty degrees below zero in a matter of minutes. In contrast a typical home freezer only gets it down to a few degrees below freezing, and it takes hours - if not days - to do so. For this reason I do not recommend that you thaw your fish, fillet it, and then refreeze it. Chances are the firm, meaty texture of the salmon will be lost, replaced with at best a bland homogeneity, at worst a distinct mushiness. If you thaw your fish keep it in the fridge and eat it within the week. If you want only a portion of it to be thawed at a time, refer to the notes on steaking a frozen fish found above. 


These videos may show you how to skin a salmon after filleting. Whether or not you actually would like to do so is up to you. Personally I find it an unnecessary and tedious procedure. Salmon skin is a picturesque aspect of the final product, and if you really want to remove it you can flake it away almost effortlessly after you cook it.