Versatile, tasty and packed with heart-healthy omega-3 oils, it’s no surprise that salmon is one of the world’s most popular fish. It can be cooked in various different ways, and is equally at home as a light, healthy lunch and a luxurious canapé filling.
Sometimes, however, you can be cooking up a tasty salmon fillet, and a strange white goo will begin to seep out of the flesh. This can be off-putting for several reasons. To begin with, it looks pretty gross, but it’s also likely that your recipe didn’t mention anything about it, so you’re left wondering if something went wrong, or even if the salmon has spoiled.
So what is the weird-looking white stuff that comes out of cooked salmon? Discover more about the origins of this strange substance, whether it’s safe to eat, and how to stop it from ruining your tasty salmon dish.
What is it?
In fact, this mysterious white stuff is a protein called albumin, a natural substance found in all salmon. When the fish is raw, the albumin exists in a liquid state, but once exposed to heat it begins to coagulate. At the same time, the salmon flesh contracts as it cooks, squeezing the albumin out and onto the surface of the meat.
This can be made worse by cooking the salmon at too great a heat, causing the flesh to contract more rapidly and squeezing the albumin harder, or by overcooking and squeezing it for longer. Sometimes, however, you can do everything right and still end up with albumin on your salmon, so incorrect cooking is not the only cause.
Is it safe?
Albumin is perfectly safe to eat. It is present in salmon whether it has been squeezed to the surface or not, so unless this is your first time eating salmon, you’ll already have eaten some without knowing it. In fact, as a form of protein, albumin is actually good for you, providing your body with energy and helping to build and repair tissue.
The only real issue with albumin is that it can have an unpleasant texture when all collected together on the surface of the meat, and it doesn’t look particularly appetising either. For this reason, it’s best to try and prevent it from escaping, but if you do notice a little bit seeping out, it won’t do you any harm.
How to avoid it
As already discussed, cooking salmon too aggressively or for too long can make the problem worse, so remember to cook your salmon low and slow, and remove it from the heat as soon as it’s done. For pan-seared salmon, use the skin as a barrier between the flesh and the intense heat of your pan, even if you’re going to remove the skin later. Cook skin-down until the fish is 90% done, then remove from the heat and flip the fillet, cooking the other side using residual heat only. This prevents any sudden shrinkage of the flesh from contact with extreme heat.
Sensitive cooking of the fish is not the full story, however - although it will result in a tastier piece of fish overall - and even perfectly cooked salmon can sometimes end up with excess albumin on the surface. Another way to help prevent this is to use a brine solution prior to cooking. All you need to do is to place the salmon in a solution of 1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water and leave it there for ten minutes. The salt will partly dissolve the muscle fibres closest to the surface of the meat, and this prevents them from contracting as they cook and squeezing out albumin.
Now you know how to keep your salmon free from unsightly albumin leakages, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test with these tasty salmon recipes.
Grilled salmon with avocado and mango salsa: another great barbecue dish, these succulent salmon steaks are marinated in lemon, chilli and ginger, grilled to perfection and served with a fresh and fruity mango and avocado salsa.
Salmon is super versatile, so if you make too much, there are plenty of ways to use those tasty leftovers. Just pop them in the fridge and use them to make one of these delicious leftover salmon recipes within the next 3 to 4 days.
Geranium's Rasmus Kofoed has decided to stop serving meat at the restaurant currently ranked number two on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list. But the Danish chef isn't yet willing to go purely plant-based.