Why You Should Use A Milk Marinade When Cooking Fish

For anyone who loves cooking with seafood, having to deal with an occasional fishy smell can feel inevitable — especially considering that fish will often adopt this unpleasant aroma long before it actually spoils. (According to Kitchn, fishy-smelling fish is still good to eat as long as it has firm flesh and skin that is shiny instead of slimy.)

However, rather than having to cook a stinky piece of fish, there is actually a way to neutralize much of the unwanted smell. It may sound bizarre, but, according to Epicurious, an effective way to combat fishiness is by soaking the protein in milk prior to cooking.

To try this trick in your home kitchen, follow Cook's Illustrated's advice: before cooking, let your fish spend about 20 minutes sitting in milk to absorb any unwanted odors. Then, simply drain the fish and pat it dry. You'll be left with fish that has a clean, sweet flavor and none of the fishy edge.

Why soaking fish in milk works

According to reports by Southern Living, soaking salmon in milk prior to cooking was highly effective at neutralizing any fishy smell. Notably, the technique worked equally well for fresh, just-purchased salmon and salmon that had been frozen and thawed.

According to Lifehacker, this trick works because of the chemical processes that occur when seafood is caught and killed. When fish die, the compound trimethylamine oxide (which is an odorless chemical that's common in living things) breaks down into trimethylamine. It's trimethylamine that causes the distinct fishy aroma. Milk counteracts this odor because milk contains casein, which bonds with the trimethylamine and effectively draws the stinky smell out of the fish.

If you don't have milk on hand, Epicurious reports that another way to get rid of fishiness is to top the seafood with lemon juice before cooking. This method, however, will impart a lemony flavor to the final dish.