British Columbia

Salmon strategy: making the most of the sockeye run

Scott Moorehead of Longliner Seafood shares his tips for picking, preparing and preserving sockeye salmon.

A second-generation fishmonger shares his sockeye secrets

Scott Moorehead sells fresh sockeye on Granville Island. (Margaret Gallagher)

Scott Moorehead of Granville Island's Longliner Seafood says this year's run has been a big one and should last till mid-September.

He shared some tips with CBC Radio One's The Early Edition for making the most of the fresh sockeye season while it lasts.

1. Shop with your eyes, nose and touch.

Look for firm flesh and shiny skin.

The insides should be clean (don't buy fish with the guts in, as it will spoil faster) and the skin unbroken.

Beware of any "fishy" smells.

2. Keep it simple when cooking.

Fresh sockeye has a distinct flavour, and doesn't need much fussing in the kitchen, says Moorehead.

"I usually keep it really simple. Olive oil, lemon juice, maybe some chopped shallots or green onions. Baste it on and just enjoy."

3. Oven vs. BBQ?

Moorehead says the oven's even temperature makes it an ideal way to cook fish, but with warmer weather the barbecue beckons.

"It's up to you."

4. Don't be a cold fish (cooker).

Moorehead recommend letting fish come to room temperature first.

"If you put it straight on the grill out of the fridge, it's like an insulating layer where it won't cook to the centre, and it's really hard to judge the cooking time."

Fresh sockeye are available now (Margaret Gallagher)

(Note: For food safety you must cook the fish right away; do NOT put it back in the fridge.)

5. To flip or not to flip?

If you're cooking a fillet on the grill, there's no need to flip your fish.

Lay it skin side down on an oiled grill, close the lid, and keep the temperature even and not too hot.

6. Vent your foil.

Foil is a great insulator, but it will also steam your fish. If you choose to use foil, Moorehead recommends leaving a top vent to let the steam escape.

7. Cook for 10 minutes per inch (or less).

Moorehead considers his sockeye done when it's cooked all the way through and flakes and separates with a fork, but says others may prefer it more "on the rare side."

He uses a guideline of 10 minutes per inch of fish.

8. Freeze what you'll need for a meal.

Cut fish into the portions you'll need for a meal. "If you freeze a whole fish, you'll have to use the whole fish at one time," cautions Moorehead.

Freeze family size portions, wrapped tightly to keep the air out, and stored in the darkest, coldest part of your freezer.

9. Freeze only what you can eat in the next few months.

Moorehead warns again freezing large amounts of fish for the year, especially if you're storing it in a freezer that's opened frequently.

Fluctuations in light and temperature will begin to degrade the fish quality.

Later in the year, he recommends buying fish that's been commercial frozen and stored.

10. Eat it fresh while it lasts.

"It's available now and the season's short, so get out there," says Moorehead.


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