Salmon has been one of those foods that have increased in our meals a lot as our healthy journey has progressed, especially as we worked to have grain-free meals more often and tackled a few Whole30 diets.
It’s also one of my husband’s least favorite foods ever, but he knows salmon is so healthy for our bodies that he lets me serve it – but it’s gotta be spicy!
Poor man, his “I’m an adult, I’ll eat fish now” journey started at a restaurant one summer when he had some tilapia with lots of spicy seasoning, pan-fried to perfection. Because he knows he should have more omega 3s in his diet, he allowed me to serve tilapia up to once a week, and of course it’s a very, very mild, non-fishy fish.
The boxed coating was easily reverse engineered (and spiced up even more), and then I found this recipe in a FAITH Magazine, published by the Diocese of Lansing. It’s even better!
But THEN, unfortunately, I learned that tilapia has more omega 6s than omega 3s. It’s not what I’m looking for!
The tilapia in Christ’s era was probably quite healthy, but farmed tilapia eats too much corn, which is high in omega 6s. Americans eat way too much omega 6. I had too much trouble sourcing a new bland white fish that I could cut super thin and cover in seasoning, that is also safely and sustainably fished.
So…on to salmon it was. We still use this fish seasoning (which isn’t even that spicy if you dust it lightly on one side of the fish only), but I don’t do all the other hoop jumping anymore. #whohastimeforthat? Hubby drenches it in “Awesome Sauce,” a Whole30 thing that’s half homemade mayo, half hot sauce.
I get both the wild Alaskan salmon (PS – farmed has the same problem as the tilapia; don’t bother with Atlantic salmon, which is unfortunately what almost all restaurants serve!!) and the hot sauce at such a great price at ALDI, so you know that makes me happy!! Good nutrition at a low price that takes hardly any time to prepare? Now you’re talking “Kitchen Stewardship.” 😉Print
If you love spicy, you’ll love this fish seasoning even if you don’t love fish!
- In an empty spice jar or small bowl, make the blackening seasoning by combining all of the above dry spices.
- The mix stores great for as many fish dinners as you can cover.
- To cook the fish:
- Heat a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) on high for a few minutes.
- Sprinkle St. Peter’s Fish Seasoning liberally on both sides of the fish. (I like to sprinkle it on the fish on a plate, flip them seasoning side down in the cast iron, then sprinkle side #2. Less touching of fish that way.)
- Sear fillets in hot skillet for about 2-3 minutes on each side and flip with a fish spatula. They are cooked through when they flake when you lift a fork in the middle.
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I use just one plate…no extra dishes for me! I coat them and get them right in the already heated pan, too, so I can just get all fishy once.
It’s also an incredible superfood for pregnancy and good for women to eat too, plus it’s so fast to make that it is definitely a meal for my busiest times of life. But I still wasn’t making salmon very often.
My Husband Wasn’t the Only One Afraid of Salmon
It’s good to hear where food bloggers came from, I think. We weren’t all born cooking right from the womb!
The first salmon I cooked successfully was a partnership with Vital Choice.
Now, Vital Choice works with Dr. Sears, my hero of babydom from when I first had babies, Dr. Mercola, Dr. Andrew Weil, and so many famous people in the world of health and wellness! Why did they need me to test out their fish?
Because I was afraid of cooking fish, that’s why. I tried making fish once in college and ended up with rubber, a truly inedible meal. I was scarred for years!
I had never in my life prepared salmon in any way except from a can. I was afraid to spend enough money to find high quality safe salmon and then risk cooking it poorly and not even enjoying it. With the husband already not liking fish, I was starting with one strike on the dinner even if I prepared it perfectly.
How to Cook the Perfect Pan-Fried Salmon Filet
Luckily, Vital Choice was wonderful to work with and sent me really, really detailed instructions on exactly how to cook the fish (phew!). Paraphrasing their how-to sheet, you can simply:
- Thaw individually packaged fish in cold water (5-15 minutes).
- Rinse and pat dry.
- Cover 3 sides with seasoning blend (they gave ideas but I used St. Peter’s Spicy Fish Seasoning because I already had some made up and I knew it would give my husband the best chance of tolerating the meal).
- In a preheated skillet on high (you bet I used cast iron), cook covered for 3 minutes.
- Flip and cook, covered, for 2 more minutes.
- Let stand with lid on but off the heat for 2-3 more minutes.
- You know fish is done when it flakes when you put a fork in it and lift up.
Vital Choice even included a dishes saving measure of cooking your veggies for dinner in the same pan first. They are my kind of company!
You can also bake or broil salmon and other fish:
- Bake: 350-400F for about 10 minutes per inch of fish
- Broil: 3-5 minutes, checking with the fork test until done
I’m sure you’re wondering about my nervous result: I managed to make absolutely DELICIOUS fish! Perfectly cooked, lovely texture, amazing, restaurant-quality flavor. Better than most restaurants, actually, and I’m not just being prideful there.
The two 6-ounce filets were perfect for our little family of four at the time, and I had the last little piece cold on a salad the next day – it was excellent. Grab some for yourself here.
Because my husband ate the fish and our 6-year-old knew he didn’t like fish, we got into a great conversation about why salmon is so very healthy for our bodies.
Paul was highly motivated to keep asking for seconds and thirds and even made me share the cold salmon the next day! Overall, what a success.
Now that our family is larger, I cook a whole pound of salmon on our cast iron griddle, so I skip the covering part and just fry over medium heat, flipping when the cooked white part is visible on the edges. It’s 2-4 minutes per side typically.
Tilapia vs. Salmon for Omega 3s: No Comparison
Here are some excellent resources about tilapia, farmed fish, eco-friendly fish and healthy-for-you fish:
- Farmed tilapia is “best choice” for the environment, says Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. However, read The Nourishing Gourmet’s thorough post on why tilapia is still not a good choice.
- Research from Wake Forest University shows that farmed tilapia and catfish are higher in omega-6 fatty acids than lean ground beef and doughnuts. This “could be a potentially dangerous food source for some patients with heart disease, arthritis, asthma and other allergic and auto-immune diseases that are particularly vulnerable to an “exaggerated inflammatory response.”
- So what fish SHOULD we eat?? Check out the Super Green Fish List from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch: fish that are BOTH good for the environment and high in omega 3s (and low in heavy metals). Unfortunately, there aren’t many basic, low-on-the-fishy-flavor white fish on there – but salmon is represented year after year in both wild caught and canned form!
- You can also download a regional safe fish list, which is really helpful for me in the Great Lakes State.
- Kimi has a great post on what considerations to take to choose safe, healthy fish.
How to Buy Safe Salmon
The rule is simple:
Farmed salmon = bad. Atlantic salmon is always farmed.
The only tricky part is that “Alaskan” and “Atlantic” both start with “A” so it’s harder to make a memory trick with the first letter.
The Basics of Salmon
You DO NOT want farmed salmon, because
- the fish are eating unnatural foods like corn, which may also be genetically modified, and when fed fish (salmon are carnivores) they eat more fish than they ultimately feed you (bad for the ecosystem called earth, you included)
- fish may be treated with antibiotics (bad for everybody)
- the highly concentrated waste from fish farms pollutes the water (bad for the earth)
- they are tested high in cancer-causing PCBs and dioxin, and endocrine-disrupting (hormone) PBDEs, a flame retardant (bad for your health)
- the farms breed diseases that kill wild salmon (bad for the earth)
Therefore you want to buy only wild salmon, which is higher in Omega-3s anyway.
- All Atlantic salmon is farmed.
- All Alaskan salmon is wild.
Anyone feel like they’re in elementary Math class? If this, then this… Which salmon fits all the descriptions (and you can remember all this when you’re standing in the grocery store)?!
How to Remember What Salmon to Buy
Tricky! Since “Atlantic” and “Alaskan” start with the same letter, I had trouble remembering which was evil and which was preferred at first. Here’s how I remembered it:
Fish farming is illegal in Alaska, so I imagine pristine waters in the far north supplying my safe-to-eat salmon, swimming free (because they’re wild). I don’t think about the other “A” word. Just think “Alaska = wilderness = good salmon” and “wild = natural = good salmon”.
I read this information everywhere…except here, where they tell us to “feel good about farmed salmon.” Poor Atlantic salmon farmers. No one is buying their product!
Almost all canned salmon I bump into is wild Alaskan salmon, but don’t be complacent: I found some at Walgreen’s, of all places, that was sourced somewhere very far away, in Asia maybe. Yuck. The problem with canned salmon is that it usually contains BPA in the can linings. Sometimes you have to turn the other way and shop at Aldi or Meijer, counting your blessings on the affordable omega-3s and praying for protection from the BPA, but if you have the extra grocery cash, Vital Choice canned salmon is BPA-free. Update: apparently most cans no longer contain BPA! Yay!
There’s no comparison with inexpensive store brand salmon. What you buy in the store is suitable for salmon patties, pretty much exclusively, but I love making a cold salmon salad (with homemade mayo, mustard, and pickles, exactly like I would do with tuna fish) from the Vital Choice fancy cans. I have also found good quality Alaskan salmon at Costco and can do the same thing, but it’s obvious that the quality is lower than Vital Choice.
Research published by the Environmental Working Group (July 30, 2003) indicates that farmed salmon poses a cancer risk because it may be carrying high levels of carcinogenic chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs have been banned in the US for use in all but completely closed areas since 1979, but they persist in the environment and end up in animal fat. When farmed salmon from U.S. grocery stores was tested, the farmed salmon, which contains up to twice the fat of wild salmon, was found to contain 16 times the PCBs found in wild salmon, 4 times the levels in beef, and 3.4 times the levels found in other seafood. Other studies done in Canada, Ireland and Britain have produced similar findings. For more on the nutritional differences between wild and farmed raised salmon, please see our article on this topic.
(I’m totally the person who asks the waiter where the salmon is from, by the way, and I almost never end up ordering it because I don’t like their answer!!)