The Unexpected Ingredient That Will Majorly Upgrade Your Fish Recipes

Eating fish is an integral part of a healthy diet, not to mention the fact that it's also delicious. Fish is high in protein and is a good source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids can aid in protecting us from certain forms of cancer, depression, behavioral disorders, childhood asthma, age-related vision impairments, and some inflammatory diseases, per Healthline. And because our bodies can't produce omega-3s, we need to find them in other sources, such as fish, flax seeds or oil, chia seeds, and walnuts.

According to a National Library of Medicine survey published in 2014, 80% of Americans consume seafood. And while the remaining 20% might avoid it for ethical reasons or concern about mercury levels, another big argument of non-fish-eaters is that they don't like the "fishy smell" that's sometimes associated with fresh fish.

Although fish that's been freshly caught will smell only of the water it was caught in, dead fish can produce an offensive odor. But recipe developer and food photographer Susan Olayinka has a trick to combat even the stinkiest of fish.

Soak fish in milk before cooking it

Unless you're lucky enough to eat fish straight off the dock, it will have a certain level of "fishiness." But the odor isn't synonymous with the fish going bad; it's just science. Thanks to the physiology of fish, a compound called trimethylamine (TMA) is produced when fish die, which is responsible for that "fishy" smell.

According to Cook's Illustrated, soaking fish in milk for 20 minutes will neutralize and remove the offensive odor. The protein in milk, casein, binds to the TMA. After 20 minutes, the milk is drained, taking the TMA with it and leaving a sweet-smelling filet in its place. Susan Olayinka uses this method when preparing her pan-seared swordfish recipe. She notes that milk also tenderizes dense fish and leaves a mellower flavor. Just pat the fish dry and continue with your recipe.

Although freshwater fish, such as trout and catfish, don't get as "fishy" as ocean fish, they can have a "muddy" smell, which isn't pleasant either. Blue-green algae in surface waters where it's warm, shallow, and sunny can produce a toxin that penetrates the fish's skin, causing that smell. With these types of fish, adding an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, should remove any offensive odors, per Nutrition.

Try this unexpected ingredient the next time you prepare salmon, shellfish, or even the uber-stinky bluefish. It'll save your home from smelling like fish, and maybe you'll convert your carnitarian at home, too.