What Really Happens When You Soak Salmon In Milk

It sounds strange to say, but many seafood lovers who would otherwise typically enjoy eating salmon or other fish for dinner become grossed out when it has even a mildly "fishy" aroma or taste. So, people will often take steps to dilute or remove that fishy smell and flavor to make it more palatable.

The culprit behind this assault on our senses is a compound called Trimethylamine (TMA), which is produced when fish are killed, according to the American Society for Nutrition. In order to mitigate its smelly effects, you need to find something that will bind to the TMA.

Soaking salmon in milk is one suggested approach to reducing or eliminating that offensive fishiness caused by TMA. Whether using fresh or frozen salmon, it is recommended that you soak the fish in milk for about 20 minutes and then wait for the chemical reactions to perform their magic, per Southern Living. After rinsing in their milk bath, the salmon will shed that fishy smell like dirt and grime and, when cooked, will lose their fishy taste. But how?

Milk: it does a salmon good

The milk marinade works because the proteins in the beverage will bind to the TMA, exorcizing those fishy demons and leaving behind nothing but the goodness of fresh salmon flavor, per Epicurious. In their kitchen trials, Southern Living experimented with both fresh and frozen salmon and discovered the same results: The fishiness left the building after soaking in milk.

Milk is also not the only product that you can use to lessen the impact of TMA when preparing fish. Acidic ingredients such as lemon juice, tomato, and vinegar are other options that will bind to TMA and cut most, if not all, of that fishiness, per the American Society for Nutrition.

Of course, while a subtle fishy smell is normal for a lot of store-bought fish or fish that has sat out for a short time, there is a point of no return where it becomes no longer salvageable. According to Eat By Date, a powerful malodorous stench coupled with slimy or slippery, milky flesh is a sign that your catch isn't the freshest and you need to release it — into the garbage.