What Does Salmon Taste Like? The Ultimate Guide To Cooking

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If you are an avid seafood lover like me, you most probably know the flavor of salmon. This doesn’t mean you’d have the correct description if asked: what does salmon taste like? You may have the taste in your mind, but describing it to another person is entirely a different agenda.

In this article, I will go over the taste of salmon in detail. This way, the next time your kid asks you a thing about this delicious seafood, you’ll have more than a generic description to answer their question.

We will also go over the different tastes of salmon if cooked in different ways, as well as how to identify bad salmon. Should you want to experience the different flavors we’ll discuss, I’ll also share the steps to washing this seafood before cooking.

What Does Salmon Taste Like? Its a Comon Asking

Salmon, like most seafood, can be consumed in lots of different manners. This means the flavors are as diverse as the cooking methods.

We shall go over the tastes of salmon cooked in the most popular ways. The most noticeable salmon taste is that of mildly flavored meat, straight from the sea. This taste is mostly revitalizing and subtle, even though the cooking method will largely determine the final taste.

 What Does The Different Salmon Species Taste like?

Apart from the taste of salmon in general, different salmon species have different fat to lean meat ratios. This largely affect their tastes.

Also, the ingredients (e.g. spices) used in the cooking impact the flavor of the salmon.

What Does Raw Salmon Taste Like?

Salmon can be eaten cooked or raw. In either case, the taste will vary; thus there is no standard taste when it comes to salmon. You only have a standard pertaining to a given cooking method.

First, raw salmon will taste just like fish. However, fresh salmon is not supposed to have a strong fishy smell, even if it’s going to be cooked. Fresh raw salmon has a fishy and fatty taste which is a little bit buttery.

If the salmon has a high fat content, it feels like it’s melting right in your mouth. The taste will also depend on where the salmon thrived. If it is in the wild, the flavor will be more robust. On the other hand, farm-cultivated salmon has a milder flavor.

Except for the fishy smell, another way you can tell that the raw salmon you are having has probably gone bad is if it slimy. Bad raw salmon will also be tougher than usual, and might even be stringy when you bite into it. The taste also turns bland, and you’ll feel like you are biting into a tasteless, watery, fishy-smelling mass. Disgusting!

Why Does my Salmon Taste Fishy?

Salmon is a type of fish, but this doesn’t mean it should smell overwhelmingly fishy. Even if you are enjoying it raw, salmon should have a mild fish smell. If you notice an uncomfortable fishy smell in your salmon, you most probably have a bad fish, or it might have been mishandled.

Cooked salmon may also develop a fishy smell. Although this can be solved is several ways (more on this later), if you stored your leftover salmon without the smell, but it now smells fishy, it’s most probably bad. You should throw it away immediately.

Both raw and cooked salmon is supposed to have a mild smell and taste. Since this seafood is highly perishable, it goes bad within a few hours of storage at room temperature. In fact, FDA advises that seafood be discarded if it has been left on the counter (at room temperature) for more than two hours.

If you have frozen the salmon to store it, ensure you thaw it in the fridge and not on the countertop. The latter will leave it smelling fishy even before it’s fully defrosted. You will have wasted a really precious meal.

How to Make Salmon taste less fishy

As promised, I shall now teach you how to get rid of the mild fishy taste in salmon. You notice that even if salmon is known for a mild taste and smell, it’s still a fish and thus smells as such.

Here are the ways to eliminate the fishy smell in your salmon:

Soaking in milk

Do you think your fish is too fishy smelling, but is fresh enough for consumption? You can deal with smell with a cup of milk.

This method calls for soaking the salmon in milk for about 20 to 30 minutes. Milk contains certain proteins that adhere to the fishy odors thus killing the fishy smell.

Apart from the removed fishy smell, fish soaked in milk before cooking will often be sweeter and have a cleaner flavor. If you also like your salmon bright looking, this method gets you’re the best results.

Remember to wash (as we shall see in a short while) the salmon and rinse well before cooking.

A squeeze of lemon

Sometimes you have cooked fish, in this case salmon, but milk would definitely mess things up since you wouldn’t wash the fish.

Squeezing a lemon over the precooked salmon will not only kill the fishy smell, but also impart some freshness into the fish. This is one of the simplest ways of dealing with stale flavor in precooked salmon.

If you are serving the fish alongside other sauces, you can squeeze the lemon into such sauces to give them a tangy flavor which goes really well with salmon.

If you like the idea of a sauce but you haven’t tested it yet, you can easily make some by adding fresh dill into Greek yogurt and squeezing lemon over the mixture. Add some crushed garlic into the resulting sauce and serve with the salmon.

Another great sauce can be made by whipping up a mixture of butter and fresh lemon juice. You will then chop shallots (if you love them) into the mixture and sauté on low heat till the shallots are ready. Add a little white wine to taste.

Adding sweet honey

You most probably didn’t know about this, but trust me, sweet honey, or brown sugar, does the job as well. For the best results, add the honey just prior to cooking.

Opt for a different type of salmon

If you think the fishy smell in your salmon has something do with the specific variety, you can opt for a different type of salmon. Of the five common salmon species, the Sockeye has the least fishy smell and taste. However, this fish has a very strong flavor courtesy of their diet that’s dominated by krill and plankton.

Kosher salt

Kosher salt can also help kill the fishy flavor. You’ll need to slice the salmon, or use whichever way to maximize the exposed surface area.

Apply kosher salt over the entire exposed surface and let the fish sit for at least half an hour.

Ensure you do not apply excess salt because this salt is not to be washed off after it has absorbed the fishy taste and smell.

Baking soda

Seemingly one of the most overlooked ingredient, baking soda is the jack of all trades in culinary applications. From softening garbanzo beans to (now) eliminating the fishy smell and taste in salmon.

This trick works by mixing a tablespoon of salt and two tablespoons of the baking soda in water. Stir and place the salmon in the solution for half an hour. Rinse, cook and enjoy your salmon.

Soaking in salt and sugar

These two ingredients are present in every kitchen, whether gourmet or a makeshift kitchen. Simply mix two tablespoons of salt with an equal amount of sugar in one cup of water. If you have more salmon, use these ratios consistently.

Soak the fish in the solution for 20 minutes, wash it, rinse and cook the now freshly smelling salmon.

What Does Bad Salmon Look Like?

Salmon, as a seafood, goes bad very fast if not stored appropriately. Worse still, it may not be straightforward to recognize if the fish is spoilt. This doesn’t mean you need to be an ‘expert’ at it to tell if the salmon is unsafe for consumption.

There are three main ways of telling if the difference between good and spoilt salmon. These methods revolve around the three primary senses, i.e., observing, smelling, and touching (feeling).


The fishy smell can be confusing at times, especially if you are not accustomed to the ideal smell of salmon. Observing the fish will save at such a moment because you can use the visual signs to confirm if the smell means something.

Before it’s cooked, salmon appears reddish, but turns pinkish on cooking. Any color different from these two instances, i.e., a grey opaque skin, means the fish is probably spoilt. If things are really messy, you’ll observe a milky residue accompanied by dark spots. Mold will probably show up when the fish is rotting and just about to disintegrate.

Sometimes, you’ll purchase salmon with the eyes intact. Fresh salmon has bright and clear eyes. The pupil is also intact and the center of the eye. On the other hand, spoilt, or spoiling salmon has discolored eyes.

Still on the eyes, if they appear sunken, the fish is already bad and should be thrown away. The eyes of a fresh salmon appear to bulge a little.


The smell is the first indicator of bad salmon. One thing that confuses almost all beginners is how tell apart fish, and the fishy smell. While the former is supposed to be mild and somewhat welcoming, a fishy smell is often too strong to bear and is pungent.

Bad salmon emits an odor similar to that of ammonia or of a musky substance. If you notice this, throw away the fish immediately.


If you are still indecisive on whether the fish is good for consumption, the texture can help you decide what to do. Fresh (and safe) salmon is firm on touching it. It will also feel wet, while spoilt fish is often slimy. If it feels like the fish is falling apart on pressing it, it has already gone bad, and is in the process of disintegrating.

When Does Salmon go Bad?

Salmon goes bad mainly if stored inappropriately, mishandled, or exposed to contaminants. Storage is the main issue with this food going bad, because there are different ways of storing it. These methods are all labelled safe, but you should pay attention to the recommended storage period for each method.

When does raw salmon go bad?

Raw salmon goes bad if placed on the counter (room temperature) for more than two hours. If you store it in the fridge, it will be bad after two days, while the freezer will keep it safe for up to three months.

When does cooked salmon go bad?

As with all meats, cooked salmon will be unsafe for consumption after two hours at room temperature. If refrigerated, it will last a maximum of four days, but if frozen, it will only go bad after six months.

When does smoked salmon go bad?

Smoked salmon will last up to five days in the fridge. If you forget it on the countertop, it will be bad after two hours, but if you freeze, you have up to six months to consume it.

How to Sash Salmon Before Cooking

First, let us bust a common misconception: if you are going to cook your salmon, or just about any type of meat, be it beef, pork or fish, washing it beforehand is simply a waste of time. This is because washing doesn’t remove or kill the bacteria- only cooking at 63 degrees Celsius (internal temperature) kills the bacteria.

If you wash the fish around other foods, you may contaminate these other foods.

If you want to eat the salmon raw, the FDA freezing guidelines should kill all the bacteria, and thus make it unnecessary to wash the fish.

For those who still feel they need to give it a wash, do this way from other foods, and ensure to wipe it dry with a paper towel- just like the Japanese sushi experts do. However, if you wash seafood, the running water carries some of the flavor with it, so expect the fish to taste lesser of salmon.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does pink salmon taste like?

Pink salmon has a low fat content, giving it the unique subtle but sweet flavor. This makes it a great option to have in your regular diet because it’s easy on the stomach and can be enjoyed by anyone, from children to grownups.

Does smoked salmon taste fishy?

Smoking salmon kills the fishy taste (only leaving a trace of it). It makes the fish taste smokier and saltier. In my opinion, smoked salmon tastes quite close to bacon.

What does grilled salmon taste like?

Grilled salmon has a very crispy texture. The smoke from grilling it makes the meat taste even more smoky, and at the same time, a little sweet.

What does bad salmon look like?

When whole salmon is not fresh, it starts to darken and smell fishy. When you press the fillet, it doesn’t bounce back to its original shape quickly and shouldn’t leave a dent.

Also, it may have dark or green spots, and mold may start growing on its surface.

How to get rid of fishy taste in salmon?

If salmon is fresh, it will not have a fishy smell. But if it does, there are a couple of things to fix it:

– Right after you catch the fish and before you clean and cook it, soak it in milk for a couple of hours. This way, the milk will absorb all fishy tastes.

– Squeeze a lemon over the salmon.

-Serve the salmon alongside a sauce containing fresh lemon juice

-Add a few spoons of wine on the salmon before cooking it.

-Add some salt, pepper and garlic on the salmon before, during or after the cooking process.

-Wrap the salmon with honey or brown sugar in foil paper before cooking it.


At this point, you know what the taste of salmon is. If you haven’t had salmon, you can now decide whether to have it or not, and if you already have decided to prepare some at home, you can comfortably tell if it bad, or safe for consumption.

Apart from the what we’ve discussed, if you come across a new method of toning down the fishy taste/smell, don’t hesitate to share with us in the comments section.

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