3

votes

If fish is good for us, why does it smell so bad?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created August 29, 2010 at 5:55 PM

As anyone who brought tuna fish to lunch can attest, most people don't like the smell of fish.

I know this is a pretty unsubstantial issue, but why would it be that something very healthy would trigger a negative reaction?

And yeah, there are probably some people who enjoy the smell, but overall, I think it's pretty well established that the smell of fish is unpleasant.

Anyway, help me solve this enigma, please.

Edit: The fish in question is mainly canned salmon/tuna, with which I have frequent encounters. I do not question that a seared bass probably smells good.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on April 27, 2013
at 07:36 AM

Canned meat can smell bad too - but I blame the canning process, not the meat. Try eating really freshly caught fish - it smells great, tastes great.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on September 03, 2010
at 10:57 AM

@Girl Gone Primal - I agree, canned salmon or mackerel I've had in Britain has never smelled bad.

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on September 01, 2010
at 03:24 PM

You a pirate, ay ?

Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

(4089)

on September 01, 2010
at 11:47 AM

Well, actually, REALLY fresh fish bends too, before rigor mortis sets in. But the only time you'll notice that is if you're actually catching the fish yourself; if you're buying fish, you'll never get really fresh fish.

1f70da0b737e9c6e7679a248f4228a01

on August 31, 2010
at 08:04 AM

Oh, and as to the "why would it be that something very healthy would trigger a negative reaction" question? I hate the smell of cucumber. I can't bear to be in the same room as where one has been cut in the last 12 hours. Yuck. Needless to say, I won't eat it, and complain if someone cuts it near me. Eeeschk... But it's supposedly healthy! ;)

1f70da0b737e9c6e7679a248f4228a01

on August 31, 2010
at 08:03 AM

Wow, that's the third time today I've read about "stinky tinned fish" - is this a US thing? I have tinned tuna and salmon at work all the time, and there's no smell nor complaints. It's tinned with fresh water, which may make a difference perhaps... Intriguing!

34d0dfe6cb1a477bd2b5f984c2af29a9

(493)

on August 30, 2010
at 03:35 AM

Well put. The answer seems pretty obvious now.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on August 30, 2010
at 03:09 AM

Yup, my mother catches bass from a nearby reservoire. We cook it up fresh and no fishy smell. We don't use any sauce because the natural taste is so good. We just cook in butter. Even the skin is so tender and delicious!

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on August 29, 2010
at 06:39 PM

no need for other answers... this sums it up. Fresh Food doesnt Stink.

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8 Answers

best answer

25
1c4ada15ca0635582c77dbd9b1317dbf

(2614)

on August 29, 2010
at 06:12 PM

You've answered your own question almost. Fresh fish doesn't smell bad. Only older fish or somehow preserved fish smells bad, basically because it's deteriorating. Get a tuna or salmon steak caught the same day, and it smells great.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on August 30, 2010
at 03:09 AM

Yup, my mother catches bass from a nearby reservoire. We cook it up fresh and no fishy smell. We don't use any sauce because the natural taste is so good. We just cook in butter. Even the skin is so tender and delicious!

34d0dfe6cb1a477bd2b5f984c2af29a9

(493)

on August 30, 2010
at 03:35 AM

Well put. The answer seems pretty obvious now.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on August 29, 2010
at 06:39 PM

no need for other answers... this sums it up. Fresh Food doesnt Stink.

5
F8c63410ad2ade1978775862befb95ff

on August 29, 2010
at 07:13 PM

Fresh fish shouldn't smell at all. You can tell the freshness of the (whole) fish by holding it on it's side by the head; fish that are fresh don't "bend" - even flat fish such as sole.

If you can't find fresh fish at your local market they're probably being stocked by industrial trawlers, which keep their huge nets "out" for days at a time at depths not usually fished at. They're a major cause of over-fishing, catching fish people generally wouldn't eat because of the depth at which they live (usually ugly and tasteless), and because their nets are left out for so long the fish are dead long before they're brought to shore.

It's better to buy fish from small sellers near the coast (if possible; don't know your location). You may end up paying a little more, but you'll be helping the small fishing companies "stay afloat" in the current economic climate and "voting with your money" against the industrial trawlers causing much damage to the ecology.

If this isn't possible you may be able to reduce the smell of the fish by soaking it in milk for a short while (works better with white fish). An alternative which works great with darker fish like mackerel and sea bass is to "spice the hell out of it". Dark fish take on strong flavours very well, so throw on some BBQ sauce or chillis if you're not super-strict paleo.

When it comes to canned fish, try the fish preserved in oil or tomato sauce rather than in brine/salt-water. While there will still be some smell, it's not as strong as that in brine.

Since becoming paleo I've started making a simple lunch for eating at work which is basically a tin of tuna in sunflower oil, drained, with a few spoonfuls of fresh mayo and some dried herbs. It's quick, easy, tasty, and provides a nice protein hit after my morning gym session!

Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

(4089)

on September 01, 2010
at 11:47 AM

Well, actually, REALLY fresh fish bends too, before rigor mortis sets in. But the only time you'll notice that is if you're actually catching the fish yourself; if you're buying fish, you'll never get really fresh fish.

3
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 29, 2010
at 06:49 PM

I used to force myself to eat canned fish and I HATED it. I don't do it anymore. It's not worth it psychologically and perhaps the bad smell is a cue that it's oxidized.

I buy fresh fish now (or get sashimi), I never have a problem with fishy smell.

2
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on September 03, 2010
at 10:54 AM

What things smell like is partly an individual and learned cultural response.

Some foods from traditional cultures are pretty unpalatable to modern tastes. I suspect some of our ancestors were less picky about what they ate than we are now :)

18 Stinky Foods From Around the World

Check out the following:

Surstr??mming (fermented herring).

Kiviak (liquified rotten seabird).

H??karl (fermented shark).

Hongeo (rotten korean skate fish).

Shrimp Paste (left out in the sun to rot).

2
1aeb2cfacf9bc03644bcda640ce459ba

(154)

on September 01, 2010
at 04:48 AM

it is a myth that fresh fish doesn't smell!! AND the fattier, the smellier. if you don't believe this, go fish for salmon. it smells up the boat when we bring it in. halibut and rockfish are pretty lean and are way less smelly than salmon. also the smell and fat is next to the skin so if you remove the skin, you remove much of the smell.

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on September 01, 2010
at 03:24 PM

You a pirate, ay ?

1
8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on August 30, 2010
at 01:23 AM

Eating canned tuna by itself pretty much feels like force feeding. Most people add mayo and relish to make it more flavorful.

0
De1095b2ba29c1035f00428cbfe3cc7c

on April 26, 2013
at 06:35 PM

My nickname at work is 'fishman' for this very reason lol

0
322a2783dfe4086591f323c6d2c086d6

on April 26, 2013
at 06:15 PM

Agreed... many types of fish still smell when fresh but the smell is different. To me, I LOVE the smell of a fresh fish market!!!

It is what you are used to and if you are used to steak n potatoes while growing up anything outside of your norm will smell funny. (If you're a westerner, curry may really turn your stomach, for instance.)

Humanity evolved MOSTLY around the shores of oceans, lakes and rivers and we evolved eating fish! But even meat stores better than fish. As our populations exploded, shoreline land got very scarce! Once we as a society started to store food (Neolithic), we learned that, even if fish was available, it did not store well and so we switched to other foods.

BTW... You watch... MOST of the time, if moms like fish then the kids like fish! lol

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