Salmon Prep and Cooking Fillets


Well-Known Member
Wow James! I'm not sure where to begin. Let's start with this: not all sockeye nor all Chinook are equal.

Sockeye have a lot of fat; in fact on average the highest lipid content of all the salmon species. The AK sockeye I've had is almost always good, but it is not as good as Fraser River (and Baker and Lk WA) sockeye. These latter mentioned sockeye are better than AK sockeye because they have even higher lipid content than Alaskan because of longer freshwater migration distance and or time. This is a key distinction. Early timed central AK Chinook (like Copper River) and our spring and summer Chinook are better than fall Chinook due to high lipid content for the same reason: longer freshwater migration distance and or time from freshwater entry until actual spawn time. The worst Chinook are the lower Columbia River tule fall chinook that turn to shit almost as soon as they cross over the bar into the Columbia. Not every one of them, but the preponderance of them. That issue is compounded by the upriver bright (URB) fall Chinook that are co-mingled at the same time, but the URBs are migrating all the way to the Hanford reach or higher or up the Snake, and while they enter the river in Aug. they don't spawn until Oct./Nov.

Salmon that have almost no lipid content are pinks and chums. They can be good to eat, but must be handled carefully in the case of pinks and harvested immediately upon entering freshwater, or sooner, in the case of chums, and pinks too.

As for salmon cookery, two things come to mind: hot and fast. That is why I like BBQed salmon, cooked on a hot fire to sear the juices in a fillet and then turned to finish skin side down. Cooked this way, no goop is necessary for flavoring. Salt and the smoke from the fire contribute to a perfect piece of salmon, provided of course, that the fish is not over-cooked. Always better to under cook by two minutes than over cook by one minute.

Anyway, sockeye are delicious, with some being better than others, and early timed Fraser being the best of all. Columbia River spring Chinook is without a doubt the best salmon in the world. I haven't tasted Chinook from every place in the world, but I've sampled it from enough places to be confident in my conclusion.

@Salmo_g I appreciate the response. I have heard that sockeye have a high lipid content before. Maybe not the ones in the salt about to enter the Kenai? This is where about 75% of the Sockeye I have eaten has come from. I've ordered it at high end restaurants as well, with less then stellar results. Never had a sockeye anywhere near as good as a king. Maybe its just me.

I feel like my cooking skills are being questioned here, which is understandable based on you guys liking sockeye and me not. There must be a reason right? My parents only eat fish (well, and vegetables). And if they could afford it they would eat sushimi every night. They bring all kinds of seafood over, salmon a lot, mostly from Pike Place. If I overcook it, they are not happy, and like everyone, I messed up every once in a while when I first started cooking it about 15 years ago. Most of the time, as I mentioned, my salmon is perfect, basically close to raw in the middle (we like rare salmon, and as mentioned, its better underdone than overdone by 30 seconds...even more important with halibut). They cook it all the time, but don't have a bbq in their studio at Seattle, so when they come over they want me to cook it. I know what I'm doing, the Chinook and sockeye I cook is not over done, the Chinook is always superior, and the sockeye is, well...bleh. Maybe its a family thing, my parents never bring sockeye over, they prefer Chinook. Now I'm super interested in trying yours!

Not my first rodeo on the grill. Although a little more done than I like (wife and kids like it medium, I like mine rare to medium rare), still delicious, especially with the garlic herb glazed green beans).


Active Member
Where’s the coho love?! Back when there were salmon in WA, I enjoyed fresh wild Skagit coho.

I too enjoy minimalist prepping when cooking/grilling/smoking salmon. To me, the real prep is selecting the run timing and properly bleeding and caring for the fish prior to cooking.

With that said, I do occasionally enjoy a dill and caper topping.

Thanks for sharing your recipe Tracker. Looks tasty. With that much filleting, what’s your favorite filllet knife? I’m scoping out new cooking and fillet knives right now. Sky’s the limit.

Has anyone tried Ikejime? Found out about this one day while eating sushi. Going to try it one of these days.



Author, Writer, Photographer
Where’s the coho love?! Back when there were salmon in WA, I enjoyed fresh wild Skagit coho.

With that much filleting, what’s your favorite filllet knife? I’m scoping out new cooking and fillet knives right now. Sky’s the limit.
I use the same technique for Silvers, Red, and Kings. I’ve caught lots of Chum and Pinks but have never cooked any.

I’ve yet to find a filet knife I’m happy with. I use this one but I really would like one that was a little stiffer even if that adds more weight or bulk.
I have a bit of experience with fillet knives. I cut more fish during a summer than most folks do in a life time.

I have somewhere in the ballpark of 80 fillet knives around my house, including several Knives of Alaska. I've "collected" them for a long time.

IMO this is the finest fillet knife ever made. I know a good many deck hands who would agree. I've used just about every fillet knife I could get my hands in including a few costing many many times this cheap Dexter but this one is hands down the best.

Takes an edge very well, holds its edge very well, perfect amount of stiffness.... And the more you use and sharpen the knife and wear it down it becomes an even finer tool. I have two of these knives that I rotate thru for my deck hand job. The older of the two is beginning to resemble an ice pick... Needle as she is called us a fish filleting machine.

Oh, and skinning salmon only happens if I'm pickling. Otherwise that skin stays on!
Btw.... Put me in the chinook camp. (except tules). I like sockeye just fine but give me a nice fat springer any day.

I also really enjoy coho.

Honestly I've eaten all five of our salmon and have enjoyed them all. As with any wild caught fish or game how it's handled after being caught plays a huge factor in the quality of table fare it becomes


Author, Writer, Photographer
Hey Nick. Thanks for the link. For that price I can easily take a chance on it.

I long ago figured out when it comes to cooking and eating fish, there are many, many, different likes and dislikes.

Last weekend I went to my brothers for prime rib. He likes it well done. And I mean WELL done. Borderline dry, and gray.

I’m more of a rare-medium rare kind of guy.

With friends and kin, I adhere to the notion, “My checkbook, my house, my rules.”

When I cook for a group of unknown paying customers, I aim for pleasing the greatest number of people in the group. I get many more thumbs up than thumbs down.
I just saw that the knife I linked is the 9". I use the 8" but thats personal preference

It's definitely not a pretty knife. But when it comes to cutting fish it just can't be beat IMO. When I first started working as a deck hand that was one of the first things the other deck hands did.. Took me to the store and made me buy one. I'm glad they did. I cut somewhere in the vicinity of 7k fish this season and everything but tuna was done with this knife.

It's only downside is that its not stainless. If you read reviews you'll see many complain about it rusting. I was taught to "season" the blade in saltwater to get an initial rusting right away and this has always worked well for me.

Knives, like steaks, are personal preference. For me I do the bulk of my knife work on the back of a 29' boat while going 20-30 knots on the open ocean and as such a flimsy blade is useless to me. I need some backbone. This blade has that but is still flexible enough for me to do halibut in the spring.

Oddly enough this is the only Dexter blade I like. I can't stand their super popular white plastic handled blades. For all other knives I much prefer Victorinox. For tuna I swear by my Vicki

My wife is very much in the super well done camp. Drives me nuts. I'm more of a medium well guy. We eat a ton of albacore in our house and it really upsets me to cook fresh albacore all the way through


Active Member
Last weekend I went to my brothers for prime rib. He likes it well done. And I mean WELL done. Borderline dry, and gray.
Let me guess: He puts A-1 on every piece of steak he eats.

I never understand people wasting great meat by overcooking it, when they can get the same taste and texture out of sirloin or round.


Author, Writer, Photographer
Nick. What kind of 29’ boat do you have that will do 30 knots? Gotta be twin shaft. A photo would be great. Luhrs?
I’d love to cook for and meet a bunch of WFFers.

Every winter I work up new recipes and then invite friends and family over to be my testers. Today I’m making a chicken stew with a pastry top crust. Supper is at 1800 (6PM).


Merry Christmas Trapper. You've been through a lot this past year and your generosity deserves in kind!


Well-Known Member
I'll take fresh Puget Sound salmon over Copper River that's flown down here. Copper River is too mushy.
That's too broad a category. For PS you need to specify which salmon species and stock, like Skagit River summer Chinook is probably the best of what PS has to offer over all other stocks and species. Copper River, or basically any south central AK early season Chinook is prime table fare. And in all cases, proper care and handling is essential to top quality product. AK salmon arrive at Sea Tac less than 24 hours from the water. Nothing wrong with that. PS salmon doesn't arrive on the table appreciably faster. Exceptions abound: a commercially caught PS pink salmon isn't worth the effort of purchasing, taking home, and cooking it. However, a personally hook-and-line caught PS pink salmon that is bled and placed on ice immediately after catching, and then cooking that same or next day is pretty darn good table fare, just not top quality.

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