What makes fish taste...fishy?

I loves me some canned tuna. A little mayo, some celery, maybe a few other items, and apply directly to toast.

Wife and I have a recipe for pan-fried salmon that we enjoy. Last week we decided to use tuna steaks instead. Purchased them frozen from Whole Foods, we fried them up, sauced them, and…they were inedibly fishy. We tossed them in the trash and scrounged for some other leftover items in the fridge to fill the gap on our dinner plates.

So what the hell happened? How does canned tuna taste so wonderful, and yet these steaks were so awful? They smelled suspicious as soon as we opened the package, so I don’t think it was our preparation of them that caused this disaster.

I’m pretty sure when raw fish smells fishy, it means it’s gone bad.

I agree. One sign of good, fresh fish is the lack of a “fishy” smell.

But, but . . . all fish smells fishy. I mean, some more so than others, but I don’t think it can be true that it having a smell is a sign that it’s bad (?)
Slight hijack - I’ve often wondered if there’s a genetic reason that causes some people (like me) to find the smell of sea food revolting and not others, sort of like the cilantro tasting soapy thing. I would literally starve before I’d put tuna in my mouth :eek:

Fresh fish has very little fishy smell, but that’s if you get it right off the boat. Freezing it doesn’t help, and the longer the fish is on the shelf, the fishier it smells.

Some science type guy can correct me, but it’s got to have to do with the omega fatty acids breaking down. I always seem to notice a faint fishiness from products that have omega fatty acids added.

Bad fish has a fishy smell with a distinct (to me) ammonia character. When I worked in a seafood restaurant I was one of the guys suspect fish was run by. I would nearly puke by the smell of fish that most people thought was fine. There was one other guy there who had the same ability.

Kitchen management would set aside a tray of fish that the “super-smellers” ID’d as bad, then they would have others smell it the following couple days until they finally could tell.

This is unfortunate and surprising. I might have expected these from some no-name fish monger on a wharf, but these were factory-sealed frozen steaks from the freezer at Whole Foods. I am disappoint.

I’d much rather buy from a no-name monger at a wharf than buy sealed frozen fish. I can smell the fish at the wharf before I buy it, and it will be immediately obvious if it came in this morning or has been sitting a week. All it takes is one poorly functioning refrigeration unit on a truck and that “frozen” fish is doomed.

I always figured that fishy taste/smell comes from the fact that fish swim around in their own toilet water.

We’ve done this before, over a decade ago.


Catch a few fish in Alaska, BQ it up 45 minutes after pulling them in the boat, never stomach fish from a market or restaurant again :(.

This sounds crazy to me. Fresh fish only stays good a few days. The fact that people could smell it going bad 2 days after you smelled it doesn’t confirm you were right 2 days ago.

The causes of hyperosmia may be genetic, environmental or the result of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.

Well, the kitchen management agreed to pull the fish, but wanted waitstaff/cooks/prep people to follow the aroma change over time. The restaurant had fresh fish flown in weekly and sold it as “fresh” for more than 48 hours, easily 72.

Yep. We went on a fishing trip to Baja, ate fresh fish for a couple of weeks (mostly Mahi-Mahi) and now I can’t stand cooked fish, unless it’s battered, like Fish & Chips.

@kayaker: Yes you should eat fish within 2-3 days of getting it in your fridge. But it seems like you were calling fish “bad” before that time, then 2 days later normal smellers noticed it was bad. If I am understanding you, it just seems wrong. Normal smellers are generally given the go ahead to decide when fish is off, a super smeller would give a lot of false positives istm.

Well, this was a Pittsburgh restaurant and “fresh” (other than lobster, clams, oysters, etc) required a grain of salt. Some fish came in frozen and was noticeably off when thawed. I never got into kitchen/restaurant management, but it would be interesting to see what percentage of fish was wasted.

Blocks of frozen cod/whitefish/pollock went straight into the huge industrial chowder pot. I loved their chowder but always wondered about

Never liked benzos.

Our stove pilot light sometimes goes out. My gf can stand directly over the stove and not smell it, while I can smell it from any room on that floor.

Oh yes. The infamous “fresh frozen”. OK, I get it now.