How to avoid fishy tasting fish

Selecting and purchasing fish and seafood

Fish tastes "fishy" when it hasn't been handled properly. To avoid "fishy" fish, smell and feel it. It should have a fresh and mild odor. It should be firm to touch and "spring back" into place. If you can see your fingerprint or it has a strong odor, the fish is old.

Don't buy cooked seafood like shrimp, crab or smoked fish displayed in the same case as raw fish. Juices from the raw fish can transfer bacteria onto the cooked or ready-to-eat fish.

For frozen seafood, look for frost or ice crystals. This is a sign that the fish has been stored for a long time or thawed and refrozen.

Fish tastes "fishy" when it hasn't been handled properly.

Storing fish in the refrigerator

Fish loses its freshness quickly.

  • Store it into the coldest part of the refrigerator.
  • Allow air to circulate freely around the package.
  • Store uncooked fish below ready-to-eat foods.

How to freeze fish

  • To freeze fish, wrap airtight in heavy-duty aluminum foil, plastic freezer wrap or heavy-duty freezer bags.
  • Freeze at zero degrees F or lower for 4-6 months. Never refreeze fish.

Thawing and cooking tasty frozen fish

Thawing methods

Fish cooks more evenly if thawed before cooking. If the fish is in a vacuum package, open the package before thawing. By opening the package, while thawing in the refrigerator, you prevent risks associated with Clostridium botulinum and Listeria monocytogenes.

How do you know if the fish you buy is vacuum packed? Look for this statement on the label: “The fish should be kept frozen until time of use and prior to the fish being thawed under refrigeration or prior to or immediately upon completion of thawing, the fish should be removed from the packaging.” as noted by Michigan State University Extension in 2014.

  1. For best quality, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

  2. If you need to thaw fish quickly, place in a tightly closed plastic bag and put in cold water for about an hour.

  3. If you are using a microwave to thaw, put on "defrost" setting. Remove the fish from the microwave while the fish is still icy but pliable. Cook immediately.

Baking or broiling fish

  • If baking or broiling allow 10 minutes per inch of thickness until white and flaky (145 F on a food thermometer). Don't overcook fish. Cooking fish at too high of a temperature or for too long of a time toughens it, dries it out and destroys the flavor.

Suzanne Driessen, Extension food safety educator

Reviewed in 2018

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