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Mushy salmon... what went wrong??

Rabbit Dec 16, 2008 10:58 AM

I'm not a particularly accomplished cook, but I was doing OK baking salmon until last time around when my cooked fish turned mushy...

- I baked the fish in the oven using same method as per usual
- I bought the fish at my regular vendor. My fishmonger offers several different types of salmon and I usually order whichever of the organic variety looks nicest that day so I'm not sure whether a poor choice of fish might have short-circuited my efforts?

Does anyone have any suggestions as to what might have gone wrong?

Thanks -

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  1. b
    bnemes3343 RE: Rabbit Dec 16, 2008 11:01 AM

    If you really baked it the same way you always do; same temp, same time; then that only leaves the salmon as the suspect. Maybe not as fresh as usual; possibly a variety that is not as meaty? At what temp and for how long do you bake?

    1 Reply
    1. re: bnemes3343
      Rabbit RE: bnemes3343 Dec 16, 2008 11:11 AM

      Baked at 400 for about 20 minutes. I know this perhaps seems a little high, but our oven is lazy so we typically have to crank it up and cook stuff for longer than books/other cooks generally recommend.

    2. k
      KiltedCook RE: Rabbit Dec 16, 2008 11:22 AM

      MHO the fish is the culprit. Did you feel the texture of the piece bfore buying? Did you smell it first? Was it the same cut of fish as you usually buy? Theoretically "fresh"? Or frozen?

      5 Replies
      1. re: KiltedCook
        bnemes3343 RE: KiltedCook Dec 16, 2008 11:53 AM

        Totally agree. 400 for 15 - 20 minutes is how I do it. It has to be the fish - either not fresh and starting to break down or full of water or both.

        1. re: KiltedCook
          bnemes3343 RE: KiltedCook Dec 16, 2008 11:55 AM

          Very few, if any, places will let you press on the fish. Certainly not a chain grocery store. And many won't let you smell it. I much prefer to buy fish in a fish market that is less anal about touching and smelling. Chinatown in NY is a great place and much more fun than a grocery store anyway.

          1. re: KiltedCook
            Rabbit RE: KiltedCook Dec 16, 2008 12:06 PM

            - Fish was bought at a fishmonger (at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto)... a reliable vendor from whom we habitually buy fish and seafood
            - Did not smelly fishy or odd, but I did not feel the fish before buying it. Didn't notice anything particularly unusual during prep - although it didn't slice quite as clean-ly as usual (I apportion into pieces before cooking)

            I actually suspect it was the fish too, but I'm not sure how to avoid the problem next time around? I hate to waste what seems like perfectly good food, but the texture makes for really unpleasant eating so I chucked it. Is this worth mentioning to the vendor next time around or is this a problem one just has to deal with occasionally when preparing fish?

            Oh, and thanks to everyone for the helpful responses!

            1. re: Rabbit
              bnemes3343 RE: Rabbit Dec 17, 2008 03:59 AM

              If this is a place you habitually buy fish from, I would mention it to them. If it hasn't been too long maybe they can figure out the source of the salmon and do something about it. If it happens again though, I would find another fishmonger. I honestly can't recall every having my salmon come out mushy

              1. re: Rabbit
                sam_1 RE: Rabbit Jul 14, 2010 08:30 AM

                I would definitely mention it in a friendly way next time you are purchasing fish there. I myself frequent one of the fishmongers in the STLM, and once got a "bad" batch of scallps (not sure what was wrong, but they ended up mushy and stuck to the pan like crazy - and I have made them countless times). I mentioned it when purchasing some fish the next time - they were very nice about it and I even got some complimentary scallops.

            2. todao RE: Rabbit Dec 16, 2008 12:05 PM

              Because you use the term "fishmonger", I assume that this retailer specializes in selling only fish. If that's the case I would have expected a "reliable" fishmonger to provide you with a piece of quality fish ... otherwise he may not be "your" fishmonger and based on what's been written to this point I wouldn't use his fish counter again.
              Salmon that has been previously frozen, although it will often fry up nicely, will sometimes result in the textures you describe when it is baked.

              1 Reply
              1. re: todao
                BamiaWruz RE: todao Dec 16, 2008 02:52 PM

                I agree, not all the fish at the st. lawrence market is fresh fresh and not frozen, so be careful.. Mike's fish market is generally the best.

                Sorry this happened to you.

              2. m
                mpalmer6c RE: Rabbit Dec 16, 2008 09:00 PM

                If it's a real fish market with knowledgeable people (I have one even in my town of 50,000), I'd definitely mention it. I've eaten salmon for 50 years, and can't recall ever having any that was mooshy.

                1. ipsedixit RE: Rabbit Dec 16, 2008 09:30 PM

                  Bad fish.

                  By the way, did you cook the fish right after buying it from the market?

                  Or did you keep it in the fridge for a few days before cooking? If so, that time lag may have something to do with it ...

                  1. b
                    BobtheBigPig RE: Rabbit Dec 16, 2008 10:52 PM

                    I agree with the others that it was probably the fish. Fish is really picky about temperature and spoilage begins quickly when it is too warm. If your fish spends more than a couple of hours in your home fridge, keep it on a bed of ice—like a good fishmonger does. A long car ride home in a warm vehicle, stuck in traffic, is no good either. In the case of frozen fish, defrosting too quickly can cause this.

                    1. m
                      Maximilien RE: Rabbit Dec 17, 2008 02:27 AM

                      It's the fish.

                      Go back to your fishmonger, and just tell him (politely) that the last fish you bought was not up to the regular quality they usually have. If they are serious, they will ask when you got the fish and what kind of fish so they can trace the issue back in their own inventory; they might have received a batch of fish (even organic) that was not to the usual quality and it just "slipped' under their nose that morning.

                      I've done so with different merchants for different kind of food, and even if I don't get a refund or a reduced price on purchase, I feel, from the reaction I get back from them, I do them a great service.

                      1. h
                        harryharry RE: Rabbit Dec 17, 2008 02:57 AM

                        As everyone has mentioned below, it sounds like it's the fish - my guess is that the mushiness comes from one of two things - either the fish has been frozen, defrosted, refrozen, etc... (time temperature abuse) or, it is possible that the fish is just softer at certain times of the year - I know that here some of the east coast fish get very soft during the warmer months, it has nothing to do with temp abuse of the fish, but it's a quality that the fish has while it's still alive.

                        1. l
                          Lenox637 RE: Rabbit Dec 17, 2008 04:07 AM

                          I used to work for a small fish smoking operation in Massachusetts. As I recall there was a bacteria going through some of the west coast salmon farms in the early to mid nineties. The disease would make the flesh of the fish soft and mushy in texture. In extreme cases you could see it when actually filleting the fish. Other times it wouldn't show up until after cooking. Ask your fishmonger if it was farm raised fish that you bought. For this reason, and the fact that fish farms over stock their pens, I buy only wild caught salmon. Good luck to you.

                          1. Rabbit RE: Rabbit Dec 17, 2008 05:09 AM

                            Confession... I froze the fish and then cooked it a week or so after purchase. I often do this, so I hadn't even considered that it might compromise the quality to this extent... I've never had the mushiness problem (with salmon or cod). So perhaps this is "my fault??"

                            Does this mean that I shouldn't be freezing fish at all?

                            And thanks for everyone's patience, I've really only started cooking fish within the past year so I'm in the beginner learning stages about the challenges of dealing with the stuff at home.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Rabbit
                              bnemes3343 RE: Rabbit Dec 17, 2008 05:23 AM

                              I think the mystery is solved. ..Confession is good for the soul. Suggest not freezing in the future. Good luck

                              1. re: Rabbit
                                Vetter RE: Rabbit Dec 17, 2008 08:00 PM

                                Freezing it didn't help. Had it been frozen before? It often is flash-frozen on the boat. And that kind of freezing is much easier on the fish than a freeze in a home freezer.

                                What on earth does "organic" mean in the context of salmon? Farmed salmon is usually mushier than wild.

                                1. re: Rabbit
                                  westsidegal RE: Rabbit Apr 5, 2014 09:35 PM

                                  not an answer to your question,
                                  but, if in the future, you end up with fish that isn't rotten but you don't like, you might try making croquettes out of it

                                2. Veggo RE: Rabbit Dec 17, 2008 06:12 AM

                                  All too often the fine print qualifying the word "fresh" as it applies to fish, actually means "previously frozen, thawed, but not yet rotten".
                                  I have had success with chilean sea bass and its texture (usually baked in banana leaf), but one time I froze my purchase because I was going to cook it 3 days later. It presumably had been frozen and thawed once, before I bought it.
                                  Disaster. We could have slurped it through a straw. The mashed potatoes were more al dente.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Veggo
                                    harryharry RE: Veggo Dec 17, 2008 02:12 PM

                                    Chilean Sea Bass is ALWAYS frozen before it gets to you - shame 'cause its such a great fish!

                                  2. Sam Fujisaka RE: Rabbit Dec 17, 2008 09:37 AM

                                    Rabbit, I've had fish that turned out mushy because it had been brought in by dynamiting (in East Timor). Obviously not the reason your fish was mushy.

                                    1. d
                                      dutchdot RE: Rabbit Dec 17, 2008 09:48 AM

                                      I lived in Alaska 20 years and we had a salmon that was labelled "pink" when it was canned, but we called it "dog" because that is where we fed it.

                                      My guess it was the freezing, but it could also have been the type. I always preferred red. makes my mouth water just thinking of it.

                                      1. w
                                        walker RE: Rabbit Dec 17, 2008 05:40 PM

                                        I've always had a thing against frozen fish, meats, etc. but when I was visiting Alaska, we were served salmon at the Taku Lodge and they told us that by law, fish served must be frozen first. (To kill parasites, I guess) It was sooo delicious and I never would have known it'd been frozen.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: walker
                                          chocolateman RE: walker Dec 18, 2008 06:55 AM

                                          I believe there is a federal law that applies to any fish that will be eaten raw (like sushi) must be frozen.

                                          Supposedly they surveyed experienced sushi chefs who had a very hard time to tell the difference between frozen and fresh fish. Of course the fish were professionally frozen.

                                          1. re: chocolateman
                                            Lenox637 RE: chocolateman Dec 18, 2008 11:35 AM

                                            The Japanese tuna fishery flash freezes the whole tuna, i believe they use liquid nitrogen.

                                          2. re: walker
                                            westsidegal RE: walker Apr 5, 2014 09:42 PM

                                            there's freezing and then there's freezing.

                                            what commercial flash freezing will do to the quality of fish is VERY DIFFERENT than the damage that can occur in a home freezer.

                                            also, for the purposes of parasite/food safety, althoughi know that wikipedia is not the best source, but their info agrees with what i've heard before, so here goes.
                                            note how low the acceptable temperatures are. many home freezers simply NEVER get that cold.

                                            <<According to European Union regulations,[4] freezing fish at −20°C (−4°F) for 24 hours kills parasites. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends freezing at −35°C (−31°F) for 15 hours, or at −20°C (−4°F) for 7 days.[5]
                                            While Canada does not federally regulate freezing fish, British Columbia[6] and Alberta[7] voluntarily adhere to guidelines similar to the FDA's.>>

                                          3. s
                                            Sal Vanilla RE: Rabbit Dec 18, 2008 12:36 PM

                                            Sometimes it can be mushy if frozen and then thawed. Another reason may be that the fish was caught at the end of their season.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Sal Vanilla
                                              Sharuf RE: Sal Vanilla Dec 19, 2008 01:55 AM

                                              Once I got a salmon at the local supermarket that turned out to be mushy. The manager said that happens sometimes, and gave me another one.

                                            2. i
                                              isadoradoug RE: Rabbit Feb 1, 2010 12:53 PM

                                              I had the same experience yesterday. I cook a salmon fillet the same way every time and I do it about once a week. The fish did not smell bad, I cooked it the day after I bought it. I put the fillet (0.5 to 0.8 lb) in a fajita pan under the broiler for 8 minutes and then turn off broiler and cook at 400 for 10 more minutes. The butcher where we bought the fish told us that sometimes farmed salmon is like that, they don't know why and they pull it out when they find it. We got our $ back. We've been eating salmon for years and never had this happen before.

                                              1. j
                                                jessicam29 RE: Rabbit Jul 14, 2010 08:21 AM

                                                This has happened to me the past two times I have made salmon at home. I typically like my salmon a bit overcooked (I know, sorry!) so that it flakes into big chunks. I cooked it the same way as I always do (400 for 20 minutes) and it is just really mushy and unappealing. It was farmed salmon from my local chain grocery store, but I had been purchasing it for years and never had that problem. It is making me not like salmon! I'm going to try wild salmon and hopefully the quality is better and I won't have that problem anymore.

                                                1. m
                                                  My2Sence RE: Rabbit Apr 5, 2014 06:31 PM

                                                  I'm proposing, that when fish is frozen and then thawed due to a bad freezer truck or an extremely slow moving restocking crew, the previously flashed frozen fish (commercially fast or instant freeze process), then thawed then refrozen slowly in the store freezers destroys the individual cell walls of the fish and you get the mushy fish. This has happened to me on many occasions with a whole variety of fish, both fresh and salt water fish. I just bought frozen haddock which was delicious and frozen flounder which was mushy. I'm bringing it back to the store and demanding a refund. I asked a meat/seafood clerk this question about mushy fish around 2 years ago and he suggested it was what the farm raised fish were fed. When I told him the bag said "wild caught" (it was cod) he said it depends on what the wild fish were feeding on. This is total Bull S#!t as I am and have been an avid fresh and salt water fisherman all my life and I never experienced this mush with my own catches, only with frozen fish. Just a theory, but I bet I'm right. Can someone with a non-commercial scientific background (in plain english an educated scientist who doesn't lie for money) verify this theory?

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: My2Sence
                                                    westsidegal RE: My2Sence Apr 5, 2014 09:46 PM

                                                    i believe that fish don't have cell walls, but they do have plasma membranes.

                                                    1. re: westsidegal
                                                      Puffin3 RE: westsidegal Apr 6, 2014 07:24 AM

                                                      Going out on a limb here. I'm guessing IF the salmon you bought was Atlantic salmon it was 99.999% farmed. (IF the fish had been 'line caught' you'd be here telling us how outrageous the price was.) Being sold in TO 'farmed salmon' seems plausible. Farmed Atlantic salmon is excellent IMO when it's fresh.
                                                      IF the salmon had been 'flash frozen' after it came from the fish farm net when you bought it it had already thawed. IF that was the case the fish market I think is legally obliged to label the fish 'PF'. Note they can get away with just using 'PF' and not have to spell out 'Previously Frozen' (Sneaky eh?). Then you take it home and freeze it for the second time. IF that's the case it's little wonder the fish was no good.

                                                  2. Atomic76 RE: Rabbit Apr 6, 2014 09:34 AM

                                                    Well part of the problem was that the salmon was frozen, but I am also wondering now, did you crowd the salmon into a baking dish perhaps - to the point where it was more or less poaching/steaming as well?

                                                    I've had mushy fish when I bought it frozen and tried to bake it in the oven and it would give off a ton of liquid. It wasn't unless I drained off all that excess liquid and cranked the temperature up that the fish would start to brown around the edges and firm back up a bit.

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