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Undercooked fish

Just wondering if most people prefer to eat fish not cooked through. Lately I've been to 3 different restaurants (non-Japanese) where the waiter says that the chef suggests that the salmon, swordfish or halibut steak be served rare.

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  1. Rare or raw? I eat raw fish only when quality is reasonably assured. I like my cooked fish to be palpably moist yet easily flaked with a fork.

    1. Barely cooked through, please. I usually ask for medium-well.

      Rare halibut? Eew.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jlbwendt

        One more 90's food fashion ready to bite the dust. Remember real fish flavour, hot, steaming and flaking while still moist? That takes talent and experience at the grill, unlike insipid charred but rare efforts.

        1. re: jayt90

          +1. Cooked or in sushi (cooked or raw), just make up your mind.

      2. I like to eat fish like tuna undercooked (eg. seared with rare insides). But fish like salmon and swordfish, I prefer it to be slightly underdone, but not underdone to the point there's some resistance and chewiness.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          Salmon makes for great sushi and sashimi. But I'm talking about Canada, where we get it fresh from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

          1. re: mrbozo

            Only in Canada, eh! I haven't seen wild Atlantic salmon in Canada for years, and the small amount of farmed Atlantic, from the east coast, is to be avoided, according to Monterey Sea Watch.

            1. re: jayt90

              Come with me to Québec (some still consider it to be part of Canada: mainly for the food and the cachet of having a vestigial relationship with a unique culture, I suspect) and we'll savour Atlantic salmon.

        2. I would definitely not be okay with undercooked salmon, swordfish, or halibut as all three are types of fish that are prone to parasites. The general rule for cooking these types of fish is that the flesh should be cooked until it is opaque and flakey. Tuna is an exception to this rule because while it may host parasites, they are the kind that do not find the human body a comfortable abode. Therefore, rare or raw tuna presents less of a risk.

          It worries me that so many restaurants/chefs don't seem to be up on their food safety guidelines.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Low Country Jon

            More salmon sushi/sashimi for me. Love it. Keep spreading the word.

            1. re: mrbozo

              Glad to. My uncle used to live in Alaska and though he loved to fish, he refused to eat the salmon after his experiences cutting into fresh-caught specimens and finding them crawling with worms. Northwest Pacific salmon suffer infestation at such a high rate they should all be considered suspect. In the US at least, "Atlantic salmon" usually refers to farm-raised fish, so they are arguably safer, depending upon the practices of the partiuclar farmer.

              As has been widely discussed on these boards, sashimi should be safe *if* the restaurant or fish supplier is following the proper method of freezing the fish first at the appropriate temperature/for the appropriate period of time. I'm not sure how prevalent the practice is in reality, however.

              1. re: Low Country Jon

                Pardon me while I don't gag, but I've enjoyed much salmon sushi and sashimi in Vancouver and Toronto so far this year. Am I playing Manchurean roulette? Perhaps. But I am far from being alone. Long live the true north strong and free!

                1. re: mrbozo

                  No apology necessary. People, even denizens of the "true north," are free to eat whatever they want, but I do think they should be knowledgable of the risks, even if they seem slight to some, so they can make informed decisions rather than letting restaurants/chefs make the decisions for them.

            2. re: Low Country Jon

              I would say a lot of the salmon in restaurants has been previously frozen.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                If you're eating at a sushi restaurant, they generally have the knowledge for serving raw fish. I love salmon sashimi, but I'm not eating parasite-prone fish unless I know that the chef and restaurant know what they are doing.

                Personally, I'm not a fan of partially cooked fish. I love sashimi, and I love fish, but unless it's done extremely well there's something offputting about fish that's nicely cooked on the outside and cold in the middle.

            3. Is anyone else being served white fish medium rare or rare? This year I had cod and grouper served medium rare, and I really disliked both. The edges were fine, nice and moist and flaky, but the thick center was gummy and just weird. The grouper was just last weekend at Frasca in Boulder which is very well regarded. I asked about it and they said all of their fish is cooked to medium rare, but they'd be happy to cook mine longer. Tuna, sure, but grouper??? Yuck.

              So is this the way it is now? Am I going to have to ask about the cooking any time I order fish now?

              5 Replies
              1. re: christy319

                Gotta say I cringe at the idea of undercooking grouper. It just doesn't taste right and IMO suggests that the chef/cook has issues with properly cooking a rather delicate fish. And I say that as someone who also loves a good rare tuna.

                1. re: beachmouse

                  I was served grouper that was rare in the middle at MIchael's Genuine in Miami. It was nasty. Unlike some fish that is soft when rare, grouper is tough and chewy.

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    If you're a professional chef at a high end restaurant in Florida, there really is little excuse for not understanding how to properly cook what's essentially the state's favorite fish.

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        Glad to hear others agree. I posted that quite a while ago but I still remember how gross that grouper was. And from Frasca!

              2. I'm OK with sushi grade salmon done med plus and sushi grade tuna done med or med rare. As for halibut or sword, it should be cooked through but not dry.

                1. There was a long (and somewhat contentious) thread on this last year regarding undercooked salmon. This is definitely a personal taste matter. I agree with many here that it depends on the fish. Tuna - seared outside and rare inside. Salmon I like medium rare. Swordfish and halibut, cooked through but definitely not overdone. Different strokes for different folks.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bnemes3343

                    Where is this thread? Was anything settled?

                    My take is much like yours. I will also trust the chef and restaurant to know what they are doing. Most fish is frozen, thus there is no risk. I just purchased some wild, frozen salmon that was wonderful, cooked rare-medium rare.
                    I have eaten sashimi and rare fish all my life, or at least for forty years.
                    Some fish is not good rare as mentioned. Oily fish like sea bass is not good undercooked.

                  2. We prefer ours just past the point of opacity so that the scallops of muscle that flake off are no longer bright pink in the centre. If you were to constantly eat Salmon that was even slightly undercooked I'm sure the taste would quickly pall. In fact, many of us here skin our fish when cleaning them and scrape away the grey meat underneath for a milder taste.

                    Smoked or at a Sushi bar is another matter.

                    1. I am currently battling a parasite from undercooked salmon purchased from a reputable source (please don't edit this out - it has been confirmed by a health professional and I am not naming my seafood source). This is the second time for me in the last decade. I do truly enjoy fish more when cooked until FULLY done. The rare/med-rare take is not as appealing to me, even without considering my current misery. Do what you want; we are lucky to choose for ourselves, but please examine why you are making the choice for undercooked or raw seafood. Do you REALLY like it better, or are you just going with the trend?

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: sandylc

                        I'm curious -- was it from farmed or wild salmon?

                        1. re: sandylc

                          Recall that fresh water fish are much more prone to parasites, and salmon "counts" as a fresh water fish. I wouldn't recommend undercooking any fresh water fish ( and probably wouldn't enjoy it ), and certainly wouldn't eat it raw.

                          Others mentioned above that undercooked grouper is distasteful and I agree, and it happens I think because the middle of a grouper filet can be quite thick.

                          as to tuna, I'll eat it raw forever, or die trying.

                          We all hope you are on the mend.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            restaurants may suggest what they like but should be prepared for the consequences of any food borne illness they transmit. As a cook, and a fish lover, I prefer all fish but tuna, or carpaccio I am making myself from sushi-grade fish, or ceviche, to be cooked just till opaque and flaking off at the bone - no grey, no red, no squishy middles. And if it's a restaurant trend, never be intimidated to say this is too rare for me. Any restaurant that flounces away with your food after that discussion shouldn't get your next dollar.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              We caught 6 big, (40lbs+) Amberjack 10 days ago and each of them had some worms, All you do is trim out the wormy parts of the flesh and on a fish that has displayed worms, I cook it through. Red Grouper seems to be prone to worms as well as Red Snapper and some Pelagic fish. Char grilled A.J. sandwiches is a popular dish in the Gulf Panhandle of Florida.

                              .J. is not on my list of personal top 5 fish to eat. We also caught a 45 lb.+ Cobia on that trip, that is more to my liking.

                                1. re: lrealml

                                  Often not. Some salmon parasites are protozoan, eventually forming milky cysts that are visible to the naked eye, but the protozoa themselves would not be. I don't believe they are harmful to ingest unless they actually cause the fish to spoil, but I'm not positive.

                                  AFAIK, the Anisakis worm is the real danger to humans, as salmon parasites go. It is large enough to be visible, but blends in easily with the flesh of the fish. Plus you'd have to really tear the fish to shreds (and look very, very carefully) in order to be sure that there aren't any of these worms present. So a visual check can be helpful but is not definitive.

                                  Salmon may also have sea lice, which can be visible on the surface of the fish to the naked eye. I am not sure if these cause any harm when ingested, but they're easy to spot and most fish sellers wouldn't sell you a fillet with sea lice still on it.

                                  ETA: Sorry - for some reason i got it in my head that you were talking about salmon. Other types of fish can get other types of worms, some more visible than others. The long worms in swordfish are particularly easy to spot, for example.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    Thanks; this is helpful.

                                    I am talking about salmon mostly...

                                    I was really wanting to make tartare out of fresh wild salmon I my fridge, and in this case I would be tearing the salmon to shreds and finely mincing it.

                                    I asked in this thread if that would kill the parasite%3


                                    but no one addressed that part (I am thinking I asked too many questions).

                                    I am still considering making salmon tartare tonight... If the worms are the only thing I have to worry about, I could probably spot them, and if they have to be alive to hurt you, I am thinking that running my knife through them a few times would kill them.

                                    1. re: lrealml

                                      Take a look at some of the pics on google. They really blend in pretty well with the flesh. They're visible, but don't seem easy to spot. Obviously, mincing would help to visualize the worms, and might potentially kill some or all. I have no idea if they can survive after being cut, say, in half.

                                      I've read unsubstantiated claims that only 12% of people who ingested the live worms had any symptoms - the worm produces crohn's disease-like symptoms for a few weeks when it burrows into your intestinal walls, but in many cases it seem to pass through the digestive system harmlessly.

                                  2. re: lrealml

                                    Parasites are organisms that live on or within another organism, called the “host.” Most fish species are susceptible to worm infestations but a few species, particularly those in sharks and fishes in the grouper, amberjack, and drum families, appear to be more susceptible to them. Larger, older fish can acquire many parasites over the course of their lives. Though they appear to be very intrusive, parasites rarely cause health complications for the fish. Although most commonly seen by anglers in the muscle, parasitic worms can live in every organ. For example the ovary of grouper can be inhabited by large, red nematodes or “roundworms.”

                                    In general, parasite density and diversity can be good indicators of the overall health of the fish.

                                    1. re: ospreycove

                                      I have removed my share of worms from grouper. Fortunately the are pretty easy to see if you hold the fillet up to a light. I've found a few in salmon but not very often.

                                2. re: sandylc

                                  Interesting to read this now since I was just asking about this on the SF board.

                                  I really like most fish raw or rare better.... especially salmon. It is not a trend to me... Also, Halibut makes the best ceviche (does the lime kill the parasites?). Out here we have a lot of access to fresh off the boat Halibut and Salmon, and a few times I know I probably ate it in a way that I shouldn't have...

                                  I am sorry that you are suffering,.. If you don't mind, can you tell me what kind of parasite and is there a cure? I wonder how big a risk I was unknowingly taking...

                                  lso, I just bought 3 lbs of fresh wild salmon, and I need to figure out how to freeze it/cook it safely. I should probably post on the home cooking board for ideas.

                                  I hope you get better soon.

                                  1. re: lrealml

                                    Lime does not kill fish parasites. Nor does salt, vinegar or cold smoke.

                                    1. re: jayt90

                                      But, as is well known, freezing does.

                                    2. re: lrealml

                                      ditto. I like many fish on the rare side. especially salmon. I'll take my chances, just like I take my chances with raw shellfish, extra rare hamburger, and riding my bike on the road.

                                    3. re: sandylc

                                      "Do you REALLY like it better, or are you just going with the trend?"
                                      Yes, in the case of salmon, swordfish, tuna, yellowtail, and sometimes mackerel, I really do like it better cooked less than medium. I really, really, really, really do. Really. For real. It's more delicious, like, really.

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        Usually guys named cowboy-something lack cred as critique-ers of fish, but I think you hammer-and anviled your opinion well!

                                      2. re: sandylc

                                        So sorry for your misery. I've had very few food-borne illnesses in my life and would not care to repeat any of them.

                                        My rule for fish is: either it's sushi and totally cold, raw and fresh, or it's cooked through. I've never liked the charred on the outside, rare in the inside.

                                        But I do know I'm taking my chances with the sushi.

                                      3. A quote from FDA Fish and Fisheries Product Hazards 3rd Edition, Chapter 5 Parasites.......

                                        Some products that have been implicated in human infection are: ceviche (fish and spices marinated in lime juice); lomi lomi (salmon marinated in lemon juice, onion and tomato); poisson cru (fish marinated in citrus juice, onion, tomato and coconut milk); herring roe; sashimi (slices of raw fish); sushi (pieces of raw fish with rice and other ingredients); green herring (lightly brined herring); drunken crabs (crabs marinated in wine and pepper); cold-smoked fish; and, undercooked grilled fish. A recent survey of U.S. gastroenterologists has confirmed that seafood-borne parasitic infections occur in the U.S. with sufficient frequency to make preventive controls necessary during the processing of parasite-containing species of fish that are intended for raw consumption.