Several types of salmon are sold commercially, but the most relevant are chinook, sockeye, coho, and pink. Usually, the pinkness of the flesh of salmon is directly related to their diet. For instance, fish that eat lots of shrimp tend to have the pinkest flesh. However, food coloring is fed to some farmed salmon to make the flesh more pink, so be aware of this if you are buying farmed salmon.
Depending on the size of the fish, fresh salmon is sold whole, in fillets, and in steaks. Flash freezing on fishing boats and deliveries by air bring most salmon varieties fresh to markets around the country. Most varieties, except coho, are available canned.
Atlantic salmon: This is the only salmon native to the Atlantic. The population of wild Atlantic salmon has decreased over the years due to overfishing, but farmed Atlantic salmon accounts for more than 80 percent of the world’s farmed salmon. They are similar to chinooks in oil content, but their flesh is a deeper orange in color. Much of the smoked salmon sold in this country comes from Atlantic salmon. Strangely enough, Atlantic salmon is also farmed in the Pacific.
Chinook salmon (king, spring:) Caught in the icy waters of the North Pacific, the chinook is the largest, fattiest salmon variety and has firm, deep-red flesh. There is also a white-fleshed chinook salmon. Chinook is sold fresh, frozen, and smoked.
Coho salmon (silver, medium-red): Found in the coastal waters of Alaska, the coho is less fatty than sockeye (see below). The flesh is medium-red and very flavorful.
Chum salmon (keta, chub, dog): Chum males develop canine-like teeth during spawning, thus the nickname dog salmon. Leaner than sockeye with firm, coarse, pale flesh, chums are not farmed. They make it to supermarkets as fresh fish in the fall.
Pink salmon (humpback, humpie): Males develop large humps on their backs during spawning, thus the nickname. The smallest, leanest salmon, caught in the Pacific, it has soft, bland, pink flesh. It is the type most commonly used for canned salmon.
Sockeye salmon (red, blueback): Second to the chinook in fat content, the sockeye salmon also has dark red flesh. It is the finest type of canned salmon, but it is also sold fresh.