Is frozen salmon better than fresh?

Salmon is one of the most popular and nutritious fish available. It is rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Salmon can be purchased fresh or frozen. But which option is better?

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to common questions about fresh vs frozen salmon:

Is fresh salmon better than frozen?

In general, fresh salmon is considered higher quality than frozen. Fresh salmon has superior texture and flavor because it has never been frozen.

When should you buy fresh vs frozen salmon?

Buy fresh salmon when it’s in season and locally available. Buy frozen salmon during off-season months or when fresh isn’t accessible. Frozen salmon is a convenient and budget friendly option year-round.

Is frozen salmon safe to eat?

Yes, frozen salmon is safe to eat if it has been properly frozen and stored at 0°F or below. Freezing stops bacterial growth that could cause spoilage or foodborne illness.

Does freezing affect the nutrition of salmon?

Freezing generally has minimal effects on the nutritional value of salmon. However, some water-soluble vitamins like vitamin B can be lost during prolonged frozen storage.

What is sushi grade salmon?

“Sushi grade” refers to fresh, very high quality salmon that is safe to eat raw. It has been flash frozen to kill parasites and bacteria.

Comparing Fresh and Frozen Salmon

Let’s take a more in-depth look at how fresh and frozen salmon compare.


Fresh salmon has a smoother, more tender texture. Freezing causes ice crystals to form, damaging the cell structure of the salmon. This results in a slightly dry, less tender texture when thawed.

However, flash freezing where salmon is frozen rapidly at very low temperatures minimizes damage to texture. Flash frozen salmon retains better texture quality.


Fresh salmon has a delicate, mild flavor. Frozen salmon tends to have a slightly duller flavor profile. Some of the more volatile flavor compounds can be lost during freezing and prolonged storage.

Again, flash frozen salmon has better flavor retention than slow frozen salmon. Eating salmon within 3-4 months of freezing will provide a better eating experience.


The appearance of fresh and frozen salmon is quite similar when the frozen fish has been properly thawed. There may be some surface drying on frozen salmon depending on length of frozen storage.

One difference is that frozen salmon lacks the bright, glistening sheen of fresh caught salmon. The frozen storage process draws out moisture from the surface.


Fresh salmon commands a higher price than frozen. You’ll typically pay $2-$3 more per pound for fresh vs. frozen salmon fillets.

However, pricing varies regionally and seasonally. During peak salmon fishing season when abundance is high, fresh salmon prices can be comparable to frozen.


Frozen salmon wins for convenience. It can be purchased year-round and stored until ready to use. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or quickly under cold running water.

Fresh salmon has a very short shelf life. It must be eaten within 2-3 days of purchase or carefully frozen for longer term storage.


Fresh salmon availability is limited by fishing seasons. In the U.S., wild salmon is available May through September with seasonal variations by region.

Frozen salmon can be purchased any time of year. It provides consistent availability even when fresh salmon is out of season.

Food Safety

Properly handled fresh salmon and commercially frozen salmon have comparable food safety. Fresh salmon goes bad quickly if mishandled.

Frozen salmon is considered safe indefinitely if stored continuously at 0°F or below. Freezing halts bacteria growth and parasite activity.


Nutrient Fresh Salmon Frozen Salmon
Protein 19-24 g per 3 oz 19-24 g per 3 oz
Fat 5-11 g per 3 oz 5-11 g per 3 oz
Omega-3s 1.3-2.6 g per 3 oz 1.3-2.6 g per 3 oz
Vitamin B12 2.9 mcg per 3 oz 2.9 mcg per 3 oz
Selenium 40.5 mcg per 3 oz 40.5 mcg per 3 oz

Overall, the nutritional value of fresh and frozen salmon is very similar. Both provide high quality protein and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Some water-soluble vitamins like B12 and minerals may decline over prolonged frozen storage. But the differences are small.

Best Uses for Fresh vs Frozen

Certain applications favor fresh or frozen salmon.

Fresh Salmon Best Uses

  • Sushi
  • Sashimi
  • Ceviche
  • High end raw preparations
  • Broiling, grilling, poaching
  • Serving salmon raw or medium rare

Fresh salmon is ideal for Japanese-style raw preparations, simple cooking methods that highlight delicate flavor and texture, and recipes where the salmon is minimally cooked.

Frozen Salmon Best Uses

  • Casseroles
  • Salmon patties
  • Salmon loaf
  • Salmon burgers
  • Salmon chowder
  • Long braises and slow cooking

Frozen salmon works well in recipes where the salmon is combined with other ingredients or extensively cooked. The benefits of convenience and cost make it a budget friendly choice for these dishes.

How to Pick Fresh vs Frozen Salmon

Choosing Fresh Salmon

Follow these tips for selecting fresh, high quality salmon:

  • Bright, shiny skin with metallic sheen
  • Firm, springy flesh that springs back when pressed gently
  • Clean smell, never fishy, sour or ammonia-like
  • Clear, bulging eyes
  • Bright red gills free of slime
  • Flesh should be deep red to pink; no brown spots or drying around edges

For sushi/sashimi grade salmon, confirm the fish was previously frozen to required temperatures to kill parasites.

Choosing Frozen Salmon

Check the salmon package for these signs of quality:

  • No signs of freezer burn like dry spots, oxidation, or ice crystals
  • Packaging intact with no tears or holes
  • Frozen solidly with no soft spots
  • Harvest date within past 6-9 months

Avoid salmon with a strong fishy odor when package is opened or with excess liquid which indicates thawing and refreezing.

Proper Handling and Storage

Proper storage methods are important for both fresh and frozen salmon. Follow these guidelines:

Fresh Salmon Storage

  • Store fresh salmon on ice or in coldest part of refrigerator (32-34°F)
  • Wrap in moisture proof packaging or place on plate/tray to prevent drying
  • Use within 2 days for sushi/sashimi grade
  • Use within 3-4 days for preferred quality
  • Can freeze for 3-6 months if cannot use in time

Frozen Salmon Storage

  • Keep frozen solid at 0°F or below
  • Avoid temperature fluctuations that cause thawing
  • Best quality if used within 3-4 months
  • Proper freezer storage gives shelf life up to 6-9 months
  • Do not refreeze thawed salmon; cook immediately

Proper storage temperatures preserve quality and prevent spoilage or bacterial growth. Monitor conditions closely when defrosting and handling thawed salmon.

Thawing Methods

Salmon should be thawed using one of these methods:

  • Refrigerator: Thaw overnight in fridge at 40°F or less. Place on tray to catch drips.
  • Cold Water: Seal frozen salmon in bag and submerge in cold tap water. Change water every 30 mins. Thaw time 30-60 mins.
  • Microwave: Use “defrost” setting if available. Check frequently and stop to redistribute. Cook immediately after thawing.

Never thaw salmon at room temperature or in hot water. This allows bacteria to grow and reduces quality.

Cooking Methods

Both fresh and frozen salmon can be prepared using these cooking methods:


  • Pan frying
  • Sautéing
  • Poaching
  • Steaming
  • Simmering in soups/stews


  • Baking
  • Broiling
  • Roasting


  • Direct grilling
  • Plank grilling

Aim for an internal temperature of 145°F when cooking salmon to medium doneness. Salmon can also be enjoyed raw when very fresh.

Should You Buy Wild vs Farmed Salmon?

Most salmon today comes from either wild fisheries or aquaculture farming. Here’s how they compare:

Wild Salmon

  • Live and breed in natural habitats like Pacific, Atlantic oceans
  • Feed on other fish, marine life
  • Leaner with firmer texture, more omega-3s
  • Available seasonally, more limited supply
  • Higher price, viewed as superior quality

Farmed Salmon

  • Raised in contained pens in coastal waters
  • Fed pelleted fish feed
  • Higher fat content, softer texture
  • Available year-round
  • Lower price point

There are pros and cons to each method. Many chefs prefer wild salmon for its flavor and texture when eaten raw or simply cooked. But farmed salmon is a more affordable option.


So which is better – fresh or frozen salmon? There are good arguments on both sides.

Fresh salmon is preferable for raw preparations like sushi and sashimi. It has unbeatable flavor and texture straight from the water. But its availability is seasonal and the price is higher.

Frozen salmon offers accessibility and cost savings year-round. Advancements in flash freezing also make frozen fish almost comparable to fresh. It’s a great alternative during off-season months.

In the end, choosing between fresh vs. frozen salmon comes down to your recipe needs, budget, and what is available in your area. Both fresh and frozen salmon can be excellent choices.

Follow proper selection, storage, thawing and cooking guidelines to get the most from your fresh or frozen salmon. Use this popular and nutritious fish as the star of seafood meals either way.

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