Why is Some Salmon Fishy?

I don’t blame many people for not liking salmon – because most of the time the salmon they get is “fishy.” I don’t like fishy either. I am a picky salmon eater and so should you be, but before you rule out this delicious and exceedingly nutritious food, please give it a try. Salmon is one of the great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Rule 1- Demand Fresh

Copper River SalmonWhen I go to any local market in search of salmon I ask what came in and when.  Then I ask to smell the salmon. If it has the slightest tinge of being fishy I don’t buy it.  Salmon should smell like the ocean not like a fish.

Some salmon, especially early in the salmon season, is expensive. In late May the first salmon arrive from the Copper River and are flown to Seattle on Alaska Airlines.  Those first wild salmon are pretty expensive. But they are delicious.

Farm salmon come in all year and often are harvested the day before they arrive. The standards of farmed salmon have become tighter and they are just as healthy and delicious as the wild Alaska salmon.


Rule 2 – Eat it that Day

SalmonSalmon should be eaten the day you buy it, unless it is frozen or canned. Don’t buy it today to use it in a couple of days.

Salmon Smells Fishy Because of the oxidation of fatty acids. But it also can intensify when the salmon is cooked. There are all sorts of people who say brine the salmon in vinegar or lemon or some other acid to decrease the smell.

Instead – buy it that day, smell it, use it that day.

Rule 3 – Frozen is great

Sous Vide SalmonYou can purchase salmon that has been caught and frozen on the boat. The salmon is then shipped to your home. Most of the salmon I purchase comes this way.

My favorite way to fix salmon is to first sous vide it so that it is already cooked then I use the salmon to make a salmon patties.  Recipe is found here.  It is pretty easy – make a mirepoix and combine the sous vide salmon with that and a bit of dill – then chill and form and sear. Not difficult but adds some great flavors and textures to the fish.

But there are a lot of great salmon recipes out there.  Some of my favorite are found at http://terrysimpson.com .

Rule 4 – Restaurants May Be Ok

If a restaurant has salmon, it may be ok. But ask the server and be specific that if the salmon has a fishy odor you don’t want it. Even in some great restaurants I’ve returned salmon (be nice about it, but firm). If you see someone else has ordered salmon and you don’t smell it that is a good sign.

I’ve never had bad salmon from a sushi. But I don’t trust if they tell me it is wild salmon. Farmed is just fine.

It is a shame when people have never had fresh salmon, but in the modern era of boat to table being less than 24 hours you can get great quality salmon that is wild.  Most farmed salmon gets to stores just as quickly.

Rule 5 – If you go to Alaska go to a salmon bake

Silver Salmon BearMost cruise ships have salmon bakes in some stops in Alaska, like Juneau. If you get to Alaska and have a chance – sign up for this. There is nothing better than fresh fish on a grill. This is worth the trip to Alaska.

Oh, and if you are around when there is salmon season you might see a few bears. (Catching salmon is fun, but there is a reason we keep salmon in a fish box. This young grizzly decided to come by our fishing spot. It is a lot easier if we do the catching for him – but he was frustrated by the box.)

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.

Share this article on social media!