Copper River Salmon

Copper River Salmon

Copper River Salmon

Last year I received some samples of fresh Alaskan Copper River salmon, and I can honestly say it was the best salmon I’ve ever had the pleasure to cook—and eat. Really.

It re-ignited my passion for fresh salmon, and just as soon as I’d used it up I couldn’t wait to get more. In fact, when I saw another type of wild-caught salmon on sale, I bought some on impulse. I figured salmon was salmon, and as long as it was wild caught—not farmed—it would all taste about the same. I was so, so wrong. It very noticeably paled in comparison to the Copper River salmon in both taste and texture. I learned my lesson, and now I use the Copper River salmon locator app to find exactly where to buy Copper River salmon near me.

Copper River salmon is caught by real fishermen whose families have been fishing the Copper River District and Prince William Sound for generations. The Copper River is home to three types of salmon, all of which have their own season and unique attributes.

  1. Copper River King Salmon. The first salmon to appear each year is the King salmon. The season for King salmon, which is the largest species of all the Copper River salmon, is only about a month long (May/June). This species boasts the highest fat and omega-3 fatty acid levels of any wild-caught salmon, largely due to their 300 mile journey from the sea to return to their spawning grounds.
  2. Copper River Sockeye Salmon. This species, the most abundant of the three, is harvested from May through September. Known for its bright red, firm flesh, Sockeye from the Copper River is some of largest in the world. Packed with healthy fats and omega-3s, its rich flavor is highly sought after by salmon lovers.
  3. Copper River Coho Salmon. Wrapping up the season is Coho, the mildest of the three. Coho’s firm texture and mild flavor makes it highly versatile and is especially well suited for grilling. Copper River Coho spend time in both fresh and salt water, spawning in coastal streams before migrating to the ocean to grow for several years before returning to fresh water to reproduce. This last salmon of the season is harvested in August/September.

Packed with flavor, Copper River salmon doesn’t need anything more than a little salt and pepper to allow its flavor to shine through. Here’s how I enjoyed my bounty of Copper River Sockeye and Coho salmon, but these recipes and techniques will work for any species.

Grilled Salmon

I learned this handy tip years ago for grilling skin-on salmon and have used it ever since.

Cut or rip a paper grocery bag into a piece larger than the salmon fillet. Soak the paper in water for about 5 minutes.

Season the fillet with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and place it skin side down on the wet paper.


Stop and admire the beautiful, rich color of that Sockeye salmon!

Place the paper with the salmon onto a hot grill and grill until the salmon is cooked to desired doneness. Soaking the bag will help prevent it from catching fire, but keep an eye on it anyway. While the salmon cooks, its oils will seep out and be absorbed by the paper.


The salmon is done when its color and texture change and the white albumin starts to form on the top.

Place the salmon upside down on a serving plate, and very carefully peel off the paper bag. The skin comes right off and sticks to the bag.


Discard the bag, flip the fillet over to display the presentation side and enjoy!


Sautéed Salmon

This easy method works for just about any type of fish and makes for a quick and easy weeknight salmon dinner.

Rub oil on both sides of the fillet, then season with salt and pepper. I used a Sockeye salmon here.


Heat a tablespoon or so of cooking oil in a sauté pan over medium heat for about four minutes. When the oil is shimmering and almost smoking, place the fish in the pan, skin side down.

Allow the fillet to cook untouched for about three minutes (this may be shorter or longer, depending on the temperature and thickness of the fillet). When the edges of the fish start looking cooked and the skin is a little brown on the bottom. Salmon is about done when its color and texture change and the white albumin starts to seep out.


Flip and quickly cook the other side until desired doneness.

Either serve the salmon skin side down or gently scrape off the skin with a knife and fork prior to serving.


Serve presentation side up and enjoy!

Copper River Salmon

Grilled Salmon on Cedar Planks

Once I tried these Fire & Flavor cedar planks I was hooked. They made grilling salmon a cinch and infused it with a subtle cedar flavor.

First, soak the plank in water and then preheat according to the directions. Simply season the salmon with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and place on the plank. These beautiful cuts of Coho salmon tasted just as great as they looked!


Grill until desired doneness or until its color and texture change and the white albumin starts to form on the top.


Use a spatula to remove the salmon from the plank. The skin may stick to the plank or can be preserved to serve with the skin on. It’ll be delicious either way!



Cedar Wrapped Salmon with Basil Olive Vinaigrette

Salmon with Basil Olive Vinaigrette-plated

This is one of my favorite recipes for Copper River salmon. Click here for my complete recipe!




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