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The Salmon Derby: 6 Cans of Salmon Taste Tested + Instructions For Canning Your Own Fish At Home

It has a been a while since we did our last meat comparison. With the site switching to a new format, this one got put on the back burner but have no fear the salmon derby is here!

Salmon is a fish I grew up eating in abundance. It was easy to catch and a single fish could feed a big family. Smoked salmon was a delicious treat that I would gorge on if given the opportunity as a kid.

Salmon is high in valuable Omega-3 fatty acids and is an excellent source of protein.

The Salmon Derby: 6 Cans of Salmon Taste Tested + Instructions For Canning Your Own Fish At Home

Radiation and Farmed Salmon Concerns

I do want to acknowledge that Pacific Salmon especially that from Alaska are a fish that many will no longer eat because of the Fukushima Nuclear disaster. I am not sure how concerning the issue really is but I know that someone is going to mention this in the comments if I don’t address it.

There are other places that can salmon so if you want to eat it you have options beyond the Pacific. Of course farmed salmon doesn’t always have the best reputation either. I say do your research and decide for yourself what you are comfortable eating.

My experience working at a “fish factory” in Ketchikan, Alaska

I worked at the fish factory in the picture above. It was an intersting experience. We had workers from all over eastern Europe, Mexico, and the Phillippines, as well as local Alaska workers.

Up in Alaska the canneries were sometimes called fish factories. Right after I graduated college, Matt and I moved to Ketchikan, Alaska. I worked for the Forest Service briefly and then got a job working at a big fish cannery in the office. Up there it was a little easier to get a job if you were younger and didn’t show up to work drunk or messed up. Alaska is a different place for sure.

My job was varied. I split my time between the office where I helped keep track of inventory, the main floor inventory, taking roll to make sure everyone actually showed up, and the best part of the office job was getting to pay the fishermen and women for their hard work. It was quite an experience and I will never forget working there.

When I was at the fish factory it was certainly not in its prime but it was still clear that the seafood industry was thriving and well.

Besides getting to pay the fisherman I got to work in the caviar lab and use my Environmental Science degree a bit.

Caviar is tested for bacteria and the better the test results the more the customer will pay in the other end. Pink and Coho salmon brought the lowest price at the dock but the caviar was sold for a more premium price.

Boats would get $0.15-$0.75 a pound and the salted and boxed up caviar would sell for $5.50 per lb or more wholesale. The joke was that the fish kept the lights on and the caviar made the major profit.

Fish factories are busy places and it is amazing to see firsthand how all the bounty from the sea gets to the table. One thing I miss about Alaska is being able to get inexpensive seafood straight from the fish factory. One of the perks of the job was getting a very good deal on all the fish and shrimp we could eat. Some products were more seasonal, but it was good to have that meat in the freezer. Shrimp and King Salmon would often sell out and not be available part of the year

But enough reminiscing, let’s test some fish.

StarKist Alaskan Pink Salmon

Cost: $4

Country of Origin: Wild Caught in Alaskan waters

Container Size: 14.75 oz

Servings Per Can: 7

Calories Per Serving: 80

Calories Per Can: 560 calories

Protein Per Serving: 12 grams

Fat Per Serving: 3 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 210 mg or 9% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Pink Salmon, Salt

StarKist is a major brand of canned meat. The taste and quality varies a lot. I want to warn you right now that StarKist has a version of pink salmon that comes in small cans that is almost identical label wise to the Alaskan Salmon we are testing. The difference is the country of origin. No wonder the small cans are cheap! They are from Thailand rather than Alaska and that makes a difference.

One of the first things you notice when you open this can is that the meat is in 3 big chunky fillets. The fillets were not remarkably hard to get out intact either. The flesh is very pale pink and there are very few bones. It was a bit fishier in flavor than the Searchlight Pink Salmon below.

Searchlight Pink Salmon

Cost: $4 per can

Country of Origin: Wild Caught in Alaskan waters

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Container Size: 14.75 oz

Servings Per Can: 5

Calories Per Serving: 110

Calories Per Can: 550

Protein Per Serving: 17 grams

Fat Per Serving: 4 grams

Salt Content: 340 mg or 15% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Pink Salmon and Salt

There are so many bones in the can! I don’t mind bones in fish as much as some but this brand contained a substantial amount. I suppose in a survival situation, some extra calcium could be seen as a bonus. The fish itself is very soft and pretty much falls apart the minute you take it out of the can.

Laura Lynn Pink Salmon

Cost: $3.50 for a large can.

Country of Origin: Wild Caught in Alaskan waters

Container Size: 14.75 oz

Servings Per Can: 7

Calories Per Serving: 90

Calories Per Can: 630

Protein Per Serving: 14 grams

Fat Per Serving: 4 grams

Salt Content: 230 mg or 10% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Pink Salmon and Salt

Overall I am impressed with the cost and the calories offered by Laura Lynn. For those that don’t know this is the store brand of the regional Ingles grocery store chain that we do a lot of our grocery shopping at. I encourage you to try this brand if you are in the Southeast. If you are not in my part of the world, then I suggest seeking out store brands from your area. I noticed when looking at the canning codes on the bottom of the can that Laura Lynn and Searchlight are likely canned at the same cannery but they are just a little bit different in terms of nutritional value. This goes to show that store brands are often canned in the same place as your favorite brand name label.

Cost: $9.16 for a 2 pack at Wal-Mart. This is not cheap fish!

Country of Origin: Wild Caught in Alaskan waters

Container Size: 7.5 oz

Servings Per Can: 3.5

Calories Per Serving: 110

Calories Per Can: 385

Protein Per Serving: 13 grams

Fat Per Serving: 7 grams

Salt Content: 230 mg or 11% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Red Sockeye Salmon and Salt

Sockeye is considered a more premium breed of salmon than pink. The smaller can size of some of the premium fish out there makes it a little bit more convenient for single people or a lunch for two people.

We tested the single can of Sockeye salmon last so it would not influence our opinion of the pink salmon too much. Sockeye is a much fattier and richer tasting salmon. When you open the can you can immediately notice the difference in color. We really liked the rich flavor and the extra fat really makes it easier to like salmon from a can.

Of course Sockeye is substantially more expensive than pink. If you usually don’t like canned salmon then you should try sockeye and see how you feel after having some with cheese and crackers. I could eat this stuff often but I have always liked to eat fish a lot.

Royal Pink Brand Wild Alaska Pink Salmon

Cost: Only available in store at Wal-Mart or local grocery stores mostly. It is around $2.50 a can I believe but cost may vary.

Country of Origin: Wild Caught in Alaskan waters

Container Size: 7.5 oz

Servings Per Can: 2.5

Calories Per Serving: 100

Calories Per Can: 250

Protein Per Serving: 16 grams

Fat Per Serving: 4 grams

Salt Content: 300 mg or 13% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Pink Salmon and Salt

is the half size can of Royal Pink. You can get the same fish in a
large 14.75 oz can too but there is something to be said for smaller
cans of fish if you live alone or just share with one other person.
Fish doesn’t keep for very long after opening unless you have good

The fish itself is packed in small slabs to accommodate the short can. The pale pink fish falls apart on your fork. The flavor is actually pretty impressive.

Matt and I agree that this is the best tasting pink salmon out of all that we tested. Royal Pink is canned by Trident Seafoods. I can say from firsthand experience that they are one of the biggest players in the Alaska Seafood scene. They had a big cannery right down the road from where I worked at E.C. Phillips & Son, Inc.

 This salmon has some skin on it but no noticeable bones. It is less salty than the Polar we tested and has a much richer flavor without be overwhelmingly fishy.

Cost: Around $3.80 per can when bought in a pack of 12 on Amazon.

Country of Origin: Farm Raised In Norway or Chile

Container Size: 7.05 oz

Servings Per Can: 3

Calories Per Serving: 60

Calories Per Can: 180

Protein Per Serving: 8 grams

Fat Per Serving: 3 grams

Salt Content: 260 mg or 11% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

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Ingredients: Pink Salmon fillets, water, and salt

Polar is a consistently good brand but I would feel better off the start if the farmed salmon came from just Norway and not Norway or Chile. I understand that they need consistent supply of fish but I have more faith in Nordic countries when it comes to quality and farming practices for any meat. On the other hand from my research it appears that Polar sets some pretty high standards for all their canned fish. I actually cannot think of a time when they have disappointed us in the quality department. They are a fairly large European food company.

While this is farmed salmon, it is not dyed like so much that is sold. It was actually a positive thing to see just how pale the single fillet was in the can. The fillet is entirely skinless so for those that don’t like the fishy flavor that skin can impart, it is a positive thing. The packaging is nice because you don’t have to fool with a can opener. While I know opening a can with an opener is not really that big of a deal, its sometimes good to have some snacks and food that you can just open as is, especially for picnics or lunch on the trail.

Different breeds of salmon have different nutritional profiles

Some salmon has more calories and higher levels of fat than others. Flavor also varies. All these factors can affect the cost of salmon. The species found throughout the US in a canned form tend to be Pink or Sockeye.

King Salmon is considered the most desirable salmon in Alaska and brings the best price but as far as I know there is no canned version available. I think part of the reason for this is that it is worth more to the processor to sell it fresh to restaurants in the area it was caught or package it up and blast freeze it for quality before shipping it to foreign markets such as France.

I have to say from my experience the Europeans import more pink salmon or Coho fillets than any other due to the much lower cost. Shipping costs are high enough considering it takes up to 6 weeks for a refrigerated Haplag-Lloyd container to go from Ketchikan, Alaska to Le Havre, France. It was always a bit weird for me to think that fish was shipped that far for people to consume.

Canning your own fish takes a long time

If you are thinking about canning your own fish you should know that it has the longest processing time of any meat. It takes a lot of pressure and heat to make sure that it keeps. Considering how fast fish spoils after being caught, this is not surprising.

Here is the procedure for canning your own fish at home if you do find yourself with a lot on hand from a successful trip or if you have your own pond. The National Center For Home Food Preservation does not condone the use of quart jars for canning fish. I know some people do use them but I am not going to recommend you use something they do not approve of for canning meat.

This procedure is approved for canning Blue, Mackerel, Salmon, Steelhead, Trout, and other Fatty Fish Except Tuna.

  1. Clean and gut your fish within 2 hours of catching it. Keep on ice or refridgerated until ready to can. The sooner you can it the better.
  2. Remove scales and cut fish into 3.5 inch lengths so that they will fit into a pint jar. Put fish in jars with the skin side out so that you can see it through the jar. Leave a 1 inch headspace.
  3. Add a tsp of salt to each jar. DO NOT ADD ANY ADDITIONAL LIQUID.
  4. Adjust lids and rings and process for the times listed below. Like any meat, you must use a pressure canner to safely can fish.

In a Dial Gauage Canner

Process pints for 100 minutes using the following weight based on your elevation.

0-2000 ft= 11 lb

2001-4000 ft= 12 lb

4001-6000 ft= 13 lb

6001-8,000 ft= 14 lb

In A Weighted Canner

Process pints 100 minutes

0-1000 ft= 10 lb pressure

Above 1,000= 15 lb pressure

The shelf life of home canned fish varies a lot. I have heard official source recommend you eat it within a year of canning for best quality. On the other hand some people say they eat it after 3 years and it is fine. Part of the shelf life depends on temperature it is stored at and any light exposure.

Special thanks to Leroy Brown for his opinion and help with cleanup. Our dogs and cats pay strict attention during food test times. Leroy doesn’t think he got large enough of a sample.

Do you have a favorite type of canned salmon or any recipes that use canned fish?

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