If you're someone whose diet consists of frozen dinners and takeout, we get it—learning to cook can be a challenging experience. It doesn't help that certain foods have a way of traumatizing us the first time we decide to skip Seamless and bust out the pots and pans. Take salmon, for example. No matter how hard you try, it's almost impossible to cook this pricey entrée without encountering the nasty white gunk that seeps out the sides. So what gives?
That white stuff oozing out of your salmon as it cooks is just coagulated protein, and it's perfectly safe to eat.
According to America's Test Kitchen, as salmon cooks, its muscle fibers contract, causing it to wring out the fish's internal protein, or albumin. It eventually curdles on the surface at a certain temperature, solidifying into the opaque, white goo responsible for much of the self-doubt found in cooks the world over. You don't need to be alarmed though—this stuff is perfectly edible. But if you do find it unsightly, there are a couple of hacks you can use to minimize the amount that makes it onto the plate.
Both turning down the heat and cooking your salmon on its skin side (which acts as a natural barrier) allows the fish to cook more gently, minimizing how much albumin gets squeezed out. America's Test Kitchen also suggests brining your salmon briefly (their go-to solution is one tablespoon of salt for every cup of water) for about 10 minutes, which softens the flesh to the point that it won't clench and shrink as it cooks. (As a bonus, this step preseasons the fish for you.)
Now, go show that piece of fish who's boss.