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Frozen Tilapia tastes earthy

Hi there - I got a large tray of tilapia filets from costco about a month ago - I divided them up into 2 fillet servings and stored them in freezer bags with all the air sucked out with a drinking straw.

I used 2 of them this past weekend in a portuguese cataplana I was making with prawns and clams. The seafood is added at the end and steamed in the tomato sauce until just done.

The fish had a real earthy taste - like potting soil earthy. Nothing else in the dish had this flavour.

The fish didn't look freezer burned at all so I'm wondering what this was? I've only had tilapia once before at a restaurant and never noticed this taste, but it was served blackened so those spices could have masked it.

I have noticed this earthy taste before in fish - usually perch or sunfish we caught in the lake as kids, and just assumed it was what they were eating.

now I've got 3 more bags of it in the freezer............................what to do?

Thanks in advance for any insights you can give me.

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  1. Hmmm,

    I cook with Tilapia a lot because it is typically the freshest and most affordable fish at the grocery stores near me.

    The reason Tilapia is either loved or hated is that it literally has no taste. It is a VERY mild, even slightly sweet white fish. Not much going on flavor-wise, the reason a lot of chefs and people hate it, but the reason why fishy-phobic Americans tend to like it. But it can be great in a way, like tofu, because you can flavor it with almost anything!

    Also, Tilapia is farm raised which can be bad for the environment, but since it is mostly a vegetarian (or can be mostly vegetarian) it typically makes lists of sustainable and environmentally friendly fish.

    So...all that said, it's interesting that your fish tasted earthy.

    Did it say on the package if it was wild/farmed or anything about where it came from? Also I have heard that sometimes it's caught, frozen, then thawed for processing, then frozen again, then who knows how long it sat in a freezer warehouse before you bought it and thawed it again? Perhaps it just picked up some bad freezer taste before it even got to you?

    Not sure if that is helpful! Sorry! :)

    1. I had this issue with fresh Tilapia from Whole Foods. I haven't had it since so i would love to hear what others have to say.

      1. I've found that freshwater fish, especially farm-raised, often does taste earthy (aka "muddy"), although not as often as it used to. Lay on the hot spices?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Aromatherapy

          Very interesting. I had the same "muddy" taste with catfish once, but thought it may have been because it's a mud dweller. I also haven't been able to bring myself to eat it since.

          1. re: Aromatherapy

            Farm-raised tilapia, catfish and trout all have that dirty muddy flavor to me. I think the reasons are two-fold. One is they are fed pelletized high-protein food, which usually has a high amount of fish meal in it. If you've ever smelled the pellets, they not only smell very fishy, they also smell dirty - I think it's the residual effects of the fish protein breaking down into ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates while it is being processed. This same process occurs when the fish creates waste matter. Since the number of fishes in the ponds or tanks far exceeds the normal ratio of fish to gallons of water in a natural environment, and since there is no natural biological cyle in place to gradually process the fish waste from protein by-products to nitrogen, filters and pumps have to do this, and are far less efficient, given the high population of fishes. Living in water that is high in different forms of nitrogenous waste and eating feed that is high in poor quality protein probably saturates the fish with this dirty algal smell.

          2. I've quit buying farm raised fish for that very reason. My husband says it's the algae in the water -- the "fish farmers" don't keep it cleaned out or killed or whatever they do to destroy it.

            1. I wonder if it matters if they are wild or farmed? I know wild Tilapia eat mainly algae and farmed live on pellets that are mostly vegetarian but can include a low percentage of fish matter?

              I have always had very mild Tilapia, but perhaps I am eating Arizona farmed Tilapia which if it is anything like Arizona farmed Shrimp, is sweet and mild?