6 Tips to Avoid Buying and Storing Fish That Tastes ‘Fishy’

Mmmm… fish! Certain types of fish like wild Pacific salmon, Arctic char, and Atlantic mackerel are among the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids (not to mention great sources of protein as well) that you can get. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating one serving of omega-3 fish at least twice a week.

When bought and prepared just right, fish shouldn’t have any fishy taste whatsoever. This is always ideal, but it’s certainly not what always happens.

There’s nothing worse than trying out a new fish or seafood recipe while having high expectations, only to find that the flavors you wanted to bring out have been completely overtaken by that very distinct “fishy” taste.

Here’s what you can do to make sure your fish is always delicious and never tastes like it washed up on the beach a day ago!

1. Get your fish from a trusted supermarket and always look for obvious signs of old stock.

If you’re lucky enough to live along the coast and be in close proximity to a local fish shop, then buying the freshest fish shouldn’t be much of a problem for you. But if you live further inland and shop at larger supermarkets, you have to do some more detective work.

According to a food safety report from the University of Minnesota, fish gets its fishy taste from being out of the water for too long or stored improperly. Make sure the flesh is firm and adheres closely to the bone by pressing gently down on it to test out how well it springs back into place. If your fingerprint stays imprinted in the fish, then you’ll want to avoid it.

2. Give the fish a sniff before you buy it—or ask how fresh it is.

The freshest fish should be relatively odorless apart from a very subtle, fresh sea scent. Any fish that gives off a fishy scent is obviously old.

If you’re looking to buy fish that’s out for display on ice, ask how long it’s been out and have someone check if there’s anything fresher you can get that’s perhaps being stored in the back.

3. Pick up fresh fish as the last item on your shopping list and store it in a cooler on the way home.

Keeping fish cool while you shop and return home is essential not just for keeping that fishy taste away, but also for preventing any bacterial growth (just like with any grocery items that need to be kept refrigerated or frozen).

Avoid grabbing your fish first and then walking around the store to pick up everything else. Instead, grab it last and place it in a cooler with some ice packs and other refrigerated or frozen items you bought.

4. Consider buying fish that’s been frozen at sea.

According to What’s Cooking America, fish that’s been frozen at sea can be even fresher than fresh fish sold at your supermarket. The freshness is preserved and locked right in by cleaning and freezing the fish within hours of catching it. When buying packages of frozen fish, make sure the packaging looks new and is still sealed.

5. Store your fish properly and eat it within the appropriate timeframe.

Fresh fish should be refrigerated right away, stored below ready-to-eat foods and ideally eaten within about a day. WebMD advises against keeping fresh fish refrigerated for more than two days. Frozen fish can generally be kept frozen for 3 to 6 months.

If you plan to freeze fish that’s unfrozen, make sure to wrap it as tightly as possible in aluminum foil, plastic wrap or freezer bags with no air pockets whatsoever. Store it in a freezer at zero degrees Celsius or lower and never freeze fish again after it’s been frozen once before.

6. Thaw and cook your fish properly.

If your fish is frozen, thawing it is ideal so that it cooks more evenly. Either let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight or submerge it in cold water while keeping it in a tightly sealed plastic bag. You could also cook it immediately after defrosting it in your microwave until it’s just flexible enough to bend.

By taking each of these tips into account, you should be able to eliminate that unpleasant fishy taste almost entirely. Remember not to overcook your fish either, since that can really dry out your fish and tamper with the flavor.

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Photo Credit: Keith McDuffee

60 comments

W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Thanks.

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William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

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Sonia M

Interesting article with good reminders and useful suggestions.Thanks for sharing

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

thanks

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Karen K.
Karen K3 years ago

Correct, fresh fish doesn't smell. Eyes should be clear, not cloudy. Before fish make it to the grocery store, it can have been on the market beforehand, so can be older than the date they get it. But they'll tell you the correct number of days you can keep it. If you live near where fishermen come from, then most groceries will have similar quality and freshness. Overcooked fish is the worst!

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Holly Potthoff
Holly Potthoff3 years ago

This always cracks me up. Fish are supposed to taste fishy. They're fish!

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Naomi R.
Naomi R3 years ago

thanks

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

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