You want your salmon burgers chunky, but not falling apart? The answer is to mince some of the fish and dice the rest.
Salmon is the chicken of the fish world: nobody dislikes it, but it’s not exactly anyone’s firm favourite unless prepared in an outstanding way.
Is farmed salmon good for us?
Salmon is rich in nutrients with lots of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B and potassium. But pay attention to where you source your salmon from: standard farmed salmon, especially if it’s cheap, may be a little nasty when you look into it.
Lice and antibiotics fighting the lice, artificial colour necessary to compensate for poor diet of sometimes algae, insects or vegetable oil.
Add to that the negative impact of salmon farms on the marine environment – escapees breeding with wild salmon spread infection and genetic changes; pollution of the sea bed in and around the farms; overfishing in order to feed the salmon – and your appetite is spoilt beyond repair.
If you thought going for organic farmed salmon is a better option, think again. The so called ‘organic’ fish is also kept in the sea cages except at lower density. It is also treated with antibiotics and growth hormone to increase its fatty tissue. The impact on the environment is as negative. Organic salmon is a con.
Is wild salmon the only choice then?
Alaskan wild salmon is without question the best choice, and there are underrated, less expensive varieties like keta or sockeye. It is not as fatty as the farmed salmon, especially the kind artificially fattened up, so might taste a little dry: just cook it less.
There are also some sustainable salmon farms that limit the use of antibiotics and hormones, have stringent standard of cleanliness and use fish industry by-products as feed.
Loch Duart is one of the best valued in the UK, but otherwise look out for the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification to ascertain if the fish has been farmed responsibly.
Why indeed? Isn’t it better to simply grill your salmon or bake it with maple syrup and soy sauce? It might well be ‘better’ but variety is important too and no amount of omega-3 will persuade you to eat the dish that is always prepared in the same way.
Plus, the (very) young generation will often only accept things mashed up, minced or burgerised.
But I don’t think the fish used for fishcakes or burgers should be pulverised – we’re not aiming at baby food after all. On the other hands, chunks won’t gel into patties as I know from bitter experience.
The solution is to pulp less attractive bits of the fillet, the fatty underside or the edges, so it constitutes the glue. The rest can be cut into chunkier or smaller dice.
How to season salmon burgers?
This recipe is for a mild option, children palate friendly. If you want sharp flavours, double up the capers and herbs. Or rely on the sauce that I suggest to serve with the burgers, only whack in more sriracha.
But I don’t believe salmon should be smothered in spices: if you have fresh fish, from a sustainable source, you want to enhance the flavour rather than overpower it.
How to shape salmon burgers?
With wet hands – that’s the only secret. Press the mixture firmly into a ball, packing it tightly, then flatten it on a wet plate with a spatula and turn it round and round with your hands, like in a pottery class.
Chill the patties for a while because chilling will firm them up.
How to cook salmon burgers?
Again, the answer is brief: not too long. Whether in the frying pan or, more health-consciously, under the grill, five minutes on each side will be adequate. When the inside is just opaque or very slightly translucent, that’s the best salmon.
It’s lovely in a light and airy bun, with a slice of gherkin and a leaf of lettuce, but I like it naked: just with the yoghurt dip and some green salad.
More salmon recipes
Simply grilled salmon fillet is hard to beat, it’s true. Keep the skin on and don’t overcook it.
If you want your salmon perfectly delicate, juicy and succulent, roast it at low temperature. It tastes like cooked sous-vide!
Or go a step further and don’t cook it at all. Cured salmon, homemade gravadlax is absolutely fantastic and ready in a few days.
More burger recipes
The same technique, mincing plus dicing, applies to prawns. Chunky prawn burgers are really seriously due a comeback.
And since I compared salmon to chicken of the fish world, here’s the chicken burger recipe.
Plus the buns – the best burger buns are definitely homemade.