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How do I get the "funk" out of my salmon???

Moimoi Aug 26, 2009 04:56 PM

Not sure where Home Cooking posts go, but I just bought some poached salmon from Loblaws (Toronto) from their prepared foods section, and it was probably the BEST I've ever tasted! It was light, delicate, fresh, lots of lemon.... YUM!!

Quite the endorsement for a supermarket, I know, but more importantly, I want to know what I'm doing wrong. I ALWAYS seem to buy salmon that has a slightly "funky" taste to it... I'm not concerned about the freshness of the salmon I buy, but I'd like to know if that "gamey" taste is determined by either:

• wild or farmed
• Pacific, Atlantic
• Chinook, Coho or Sockeye, Steelhead...

I'm not an expert on salmon, but I'd appreciate any advice or guidance on which type of salmon to buy or how to prepare it to avoid THAT taste... I hope the only option to alleviate it isn't soaking it in milk for 24 hours because that's not always practical.


  1. tommy Aug 26, 2009 05:38 PM

    you should be happy if your salmon actually has flavor. :)

    1. fmed Aug 26, 2009 05:52 PM

      Was the salmon previously frozen (or frozen at sea)? Farmed? Can you describe this "funk"? (Is it a slightly metallic flavour?)

      2 Replies
      1. re: fmed
        Moimoi Aug 29, 2009 08:01 PM

        It is a gamey flavour... maybe I'm not using the right word... It's definitely NOT pissy or metallic like others have mentioned. I've never tasted that flavour before in salmon. Sorry, but while I'm a foodie, I'm not into gamey meats or fish. Maybe the flavour I'm describing is actually a good thing... who knows. I NEVER buy previously frozen salmon or fish. I always buy fresh from the seafood counter, never packaged... I didn't note if it was wild or farmed or which type is was. I did note however that while the fish was beautiful, appeared fresh, and smelled good, etc., it only seemed to have THAT flavour in the centre. I poached it, by the way. I'm going to review and note in detail the other posts for reference. Thanks.

        1. re: Moimoi
          fmed Aug 29, 2009 11:48 PM

          While it's hard to determine if we are talking about the same flavour, "gamey" to me sounds "off" for a fish....but if it smelled good to you, then you might have tried some of the more robustly flavoured salmons (eg chinook, coho, sockeye) as opposed to the light-flavoured varieties (pink, chum). Or perhaps the fish was sitting too long at refrigeration temperatures prior to preparation. I think that it isn't possible to remove the funk. It may be a case of masking it (using a different recipe and preparation, etc.)

          That metallic flavour isn't necessarily a negative to me. (I like that flavour note in grilled salmon skin, for example. I occasionally have salmon skin sushi rolls that have that flavour strongly represented.)

          BTW There is nothing wrong with frozen fish (especially flash Frozen at Sea "FAS"). That product is usually far superior to "fresh, never frozen" if you live in an area where they have to ship/truck it in. (Assuming of course, that they treated it well prior to sale.)

      2. pikawicca Aug 26, 2009 06:14 PM

        You probably purchased wild king (chinook) salmon. It has a lovely, mild flavor. Sockeye can be quite assertive: people who don't like salmon are usually talking about this species, I think. Farmed Atlantic salmon tends to be mushy. These are generalities, of course, and the fish varies greatly depending on how it's been stored and how old it is. I buy my wild king salmon from a fish shop in Seattle and have it shipped.

        6 Replies
        1. re: pikawicca
          zamorski Aug 26, 2009 06:34 PM

          Nearly all salmon you get in Eastern Canada is farmed Atlantic salmon, which I find has a pissy/metallic flavour to a greater or lesser extent. Perhaps this is what you are calling "funky"? If it is not overly fresh, it is both pissy/metallic and fishy. Yuck. It is, however, not bad if it is smoked, as this covers up the nastiness pretty well.

          I get the sense that this pissy/metallic flavour is one of those flavours that some people are more sensitive to than others. Any number of cooks that I trust and respect seem to be immune to this and can't even seem to grasp what I am talking about...I guess you can count me in as a Supertaster for that flavour!

          Wild Pacific salmon, on the other hand is wonderful to my palate at least, provided it is fresh. Sockeye does have more flavour than King/Coho/Chinook, and I do prefer it for that reason. As an oily fish, all salmon is especially perishable, so freshness is particular important. I almost never buy mackerel or bluefish here in Ottawa for that reason (although the mackerel at the Pelican Fishery is lookin' mighty tasty lately...may give it a shot).

          1. re: zamorski
            fmed Aug 26, 2009 08:35 PM

            I also find that the "pissy/metallic" flavour is concentrated on the skin and the flesh near the skin. So depending on the preparation (with and without skin, etc) the flavour could be more pronounced.

            1. re: zamorski
              Shrinkrap Aug 26, 2009 09:05 PM

              "pissy"? like urine or ammonia?

              1. re: Shrinkrap
                zamorski Aug 27, 2009 06:29 PM

                No, not like ammonia/spoilage. More like "fresh" urine smells, with a metallic note (more like copper than iron). I imagine that the cause is salmon all penned in close to one another in a fish farm, swimming in each other's waste.

                [I am thinking that the salmon farmers won't be hiring me as a spokesperson anytime soon]

            2. re: pikawicca
              hotoynoodle Aug 27, 2009 07:32 PM

              wild salmon has a season which is spring to late summer. the op is complaining about "always".

              farmed salmon has little flavor and even its fat doesn't add much oomph. the flesh is flabby. it's a waste of money, calories and time to cook it.

              the choice of "funky" as an adjective though really does make me question the freshness of what you usually buy. perhaps it's "normal" to you, but even the richest flavored salmon should smell sweet and clean. not funky.

              1. re: hotoynoodle
                zamorski Aug 28, 2009 04:36 PM

                To me, the pissy/metallic/funky taste of farmed Atlantic salmon is distinct from the fishy taste of spoilage (which is, I am willing to stipulate, even nastier). But again, I wonder if this is one of those flavours that some people taste and others don't for some reason.

            3. s
              silverhawk Aug 26, 2009 08:43 PM

              i think the taste you sense is localized in the skin and fat. discard the skin. make sure the fat is cooked. i feel your pain.

              1 Reply
              1. re: silverhawk
                zamorski Aug 27, 2009 06:25 PM

                Agree that the nastiness is concentrated in the fat/skin and the underlying darker meat. Getting rid of same is a good approach...but it still amounts to mutton dressed up as lamb.

              2. todao Aug 27, 2009 10:21 PM

                I would have to agree that removing the skin might be the first thing to try. The microbes that live on the skin need to be washed away; even if you skin the fish. Then, after skinning it, you need to wash the meat once again (clear running water is enough to get the job done in either case) because no matter how well you wash the skin, some of the microbes will find their way to the meat and generate off flavors and aromas in mere minutes. Soaking your fish in milk won't do much to help, certainly no more than washing it before cooking would do.

                1. s
                  silverhawk Aug 28, 2009 07:13 AM

                  when i grill salmon fillets i often throw a cap's worth of oil on the coals just when the fish is done with the skin down. this on-purpose flare-up crisps the skin and allows me to slide a sharp spatula between the meat and the skin.

                  1. g
                    gordeaux Aug 28, 2009 07:49 AM

                    Isn't the flesh near the skin that is a brownish color the "mudvayne" or "mudvein" of the fish? I'm not exactly sure what it does, but I think it is something to do with waste. When I go on my fishing charters every year, I remove these from the bigger salmon, and fry them separately. They have a very light oystery taste to them, but as the fish deteriorates after being caught/killed, the flavor intensifies.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gordeaux
                      silverhawk Aug 28, 2009 08:21 AM

                      i think the dark vein you cite is yet another funk source--separate from the skin and grayish fat under it. the vein--or its brown/purple residue-- doesn't always show up, depending on how the salmon is cut, but if it is there, it sure ought to go. some less than wonderful cuts of lox have a remnant of the vein at the bottom of each slice. not good.

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