The AHA (American Heart Association) recommend eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times (two servings) a week. Fatty fish include one of my favorites, salmon. But what do you do if you have been getting salmon and can't stand the fishy smell and taste?
This time around we will talk about what causes that fishy smell, and at least one thing that you can do about it. Why do salmon or any other fish smell fishy in the first place? As an angler that at least from time to time pulls salmon out of the water in the morning and has them for dinner that night, I can tell you that salmon should not have a fishy taste or smell. But, if you leave that nice fresh salmon in the fridge for a few days, it starts to smell 'fishy'.
The reason for this is a chemical called trimethylamine N-oxide that scientists believe act as an anti-freeze and to protect a fish's cellular proteins under the pressures they encounter in the deep. The problem starts after a fish dies. After a fish has ceased to be, trimethylamine N-oxide starts breaking down into Trimethylamine. It is this chemical that causes the characteristic fishy smell you probably have experienced in a fish market before.
Prevention is key to avoiding stinky fish!
Now that you know that the fishy smell comes from a chemical that is too long to pronounce breaking down into one moderately more pronounceable, the key element in avoiding it is obvious. Buy fresher fish! Even the freshest fish at the store has had to undergo the process of being caught, processed, frozen, thawed and displayed at your local grocers. Under the best circumstances it has been at above freezing temps for only a few days, but that is still long enough for trimethylamine N-oxide to start breaking down and stinking up your otherwise beautiful fish. Find the busy fish markets and avoid ones that look questionable.
Don't be shy about asking to smell your salmon or other fish before you buy it. If it smells fishy now, then it won't be any better by the time you take it home. Take care of your fish before you cook it! You know how the meat counter is usually one of the first stops when you wander through a grocery store? How might that affect your fish? I suggest making the stop at the fish counter your last stop before you check out. You may even want to bring along a small cooler with a cold pack in it do keep your fish in on the ride home.
Too psycho for you? Considering that the fishy smell we are trying to avoid is the breakdown of chemicals, the colder we can keep our fish, the slower that process will be and the less fishy smell your salmon will have. Lastly, try and buy fish the same day you are going to cook it. At most I would buy it the night before and keep it in the bottom of your fridge where it is coldest. What can you do to eliminate that fishy smell?
If after all this, you can't avoid some of the dreaded fish smell, one thing you can do is drizzle it down with lemon juice. Lemon juice is acidic and actually converts the volatile chemicals in the amines to a much less volatile salt. The effect of this is to bind up the stinky chemicals into form you don't smell and taste as much.
I hope this article has been useful to you in realizing that salmon should not be fishy tasting or smelling. Good fresh salmon tastes sweet and quite honestly, like salmon. There is no other way to describe it. So shop more carefully, smell fish before you buy it and store it right to avoid 'stinky fish syndrome'.
About the Author:
Cliff fishes the waters of Western Washington for everything he can, when he can. Favorite species include Trout, Salmon and Bass!