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Best smoked salmon

By Christina Woodger

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Discover the best supermarket smoked salmons, as recommended by our expert taste test panel.

Smoked salmon adds sophistication to any meal, whether you're serving it as an elegant appetiser or pairing it with crusty bread and cream cheese for a teatime treat. But it doesn't come cheap, with some supermarkets charging £50 a kilo.

To find out which smoked salmon is worth splashing out on, our panel of experts tasted, rated and ranked nine premium smoked salmons from the major supermarkets: Aldi, Asda, The Co-operative, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose.

Our results show that you do have to pay a bit more if you want the best-tasting smoked salmon, but also that the most expensive salmons aren't always the best.

Our experts also tasted and gave us their opinion on cheaper smoked salmon trimmings, as well as tips on how to spot the best smoked salmon and how best to store it. And our wine expert, Charles Metcalfe, shares his picks for which wines to pair with smoked salmon.

Which? members can log in now to unlock which are the Best Buy smoked salmons in the table below.

If you're not a member yet, take out a £1 Which? trial to reveal our smoked salmon results – and get access to all the other reviews on our website, from champagne and TVs to bread makers and coffee. 

Which smoked salmon is best?

Best smoked salmon
Retailer Name Price Tasting notes Score
Aldi Specially Selected Beechwood Smoked Salmon £2.49/100g (£24.90/kg) Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Asda Extra Special Rich and Intense Smoked Salmon £4/120g (£33.33/kg) Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
The Co-operative Irresistible Beech & Oak Smoked Salmon £4.79/100g (£47.90/kg) Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Lidl Deluxe Hickory and Applewood Scottish Smoked Salmon £2.49/100g (£24.90/kg) Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Marks & Spencer Smoky and Robust Smoked Salmon £5/100g (£50/kg) Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Morrisons The Best Scottish Smoked Salmon £5/120g (£41.67/kg) Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Oak Smoked Salmon £4.50/120g (£37.50/kg) Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Tesco Finest Scottish Smoked Salmon £4/100g (£40/kg) Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Waitrose 1 Peat and Heather Scottish Smoked Salmon £6.49/140g (£46.35/kg) Subscriber only content Subscriber only content

Table notes: Prices correct at time of publication in October 2016

How we test smoked salmon

We asked a panel of four experts to rate and assess premium supermarket smoked salmon. 

Each judge was first asked to look at the plated-up smoked salmon, to assess it for appearance and aroma. 

Our judges were then invited to taste a small portion of the smoked salmon, rating it for taste and texture. 

The experts didn't know which smoked salmon they were eating, as this was a blind tasting – where we remove all traces of the product's identity before serving it up to our experts. 

All of the experts tasted the products in a different order. 

The panel consisted of: Lance Forman, owner of Britain’s oldest salmon curer, H Forman & Son; Paul Trudgian, owner of online seafood retailer, Fish for Thought; and Adam Byatt, owner of Trinity restaurant in Clapham.

The products were tested for taste (50%), aroma (20%), appearance (15%) and texture (15%)

Did you know? The term ‘Scottish smoked salmon’ doesn’t mean the fish was born and bred in Scotland; sometimes it’s simply been smoked there. At least two thirds of the salmon we eat in the UK is from Norway.


How salmon is smoked

Smoked salmon was first produced in London more than 100 years ago. Smoking was a way of preserving the unique flavour of the wild salmon in the days of basic refrigeration. Smoked salmon was about letting the taste of the fish come through, rather than the taste of smoke, so beech and oak were used as they're not overly pungent. 

Later on, hickory started to be used, specifically to cater for people who wanted a stronger flavour. Nowadays, smoked salmon is often marketed on the taste of the smoke - although a heavy smoke can often be used to mask the quality of fish that's less fresh. 

While some smaller companies still smoke salmon by hand, the packs that end up in your supermarket basket are generally processed mechanically. 

Watch our video, behind the scenes at H Forman & Son, to see how salmon is smoked the traditional way, by hand. 

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What's hot smoked salmon?

Salmon that’s been smoked at a high temperature (around 80°C), effectively cooking it. What we call smoked salmon is cold smoked (at 28-30°C) but not cooked. This technique was traditionally used to preserve fish against spoilage.

What's gravadlax?

Gravadlax, gravlax, grav laks, cured salmon – whatever you call it, it's salmon that’s been marinated (not smoked) to preserve it, traditionally using salt, sugar, dill and sometimes pepper. It’s a Scandinavian dish, usually served with rye bread.

Are lox smoked salmon?

Lox is a Yiddish word (often used in America), initially referring to salmon cured in brine, now sometimes used synonymously with smoked salmon.

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