How To Make Fish Less Fishy (Chemistry Life Hacks)

Reactions is back with more chemistry life hacks for you! This week we’re all about the science of fish smell. Freshly caught fish is delicious. But after a day or two, that filet in your fridge smells a little fishier, thanks to a stinky molecule known as trimethylamine. Is there any hope? This week, find out how to make fish taste and smell less fishy with chemistry. Learn about the amino acids that give fresh fish its sweet and savory flavor, and get three chemistry-backed tricks to cut down the fishy taste and smell.

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Megan Cartwright

Adam Dylewski

Executive Producer:
Adam Dylewski

Video Producer:
Sean Parsons

Scientific consultants:
Cesar Vega, Ph.D.
Darcy Gentleman, Ph.D.
Steve Maguire, MSc
Kyle Nackers

FDA. “Fresh and Frozen Seafood: Selecting and Serving It Safely.” Web:

Gram L and Hans HH. Microbiological spoilage of fish and fish products. Int J Food Microbiol. 1996;33(1):121-137. Web:

Joaquin HJ, et al. Effect of milk protein concentrate on lipid oxidation and formation of fishy volatiles in herring mince (Clupea harengus) during frozen storage. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56(1):166-172. Web:

Jung Hyo, et al. Reduction of Off-flavors in Steamed Crab Meat Using Dairy Products. KOREAN J. FOOD SCI. TECHNOL. Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 345~349 (2015).

Marsters, Rebecca. “Removing Fishy Smells from Fresh Seafood [VIDEO].” America’s Test Kitchen. Web:

McGee, Harold. “Fish and Shellfish.” On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. 2004.

Sae-Leaw T, et al. Changes in lipids and fishy odour development in skin from Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) stored in ice. Food Chem. 2013;141(3):2466-2472. Web:

Sallam KI. Antimicrobial and antioxidant effects of sodium acetate, sodium lactate, and sodium citrate in refrigerated sliced salmon. Food Control. 2007;18(5):566–575. Web:

Seibel BA and Walsh PJ. Trimethylamine oxide accumulation in marine animals: relationship to acylglycerol storage. J Exp Biol. 2002;205(Pt 3):297-306. Web:

Tryfinopoulou P, et al. Characterization of Pseudomonas spp. associated with spoilage of gilt-head sea bream stored under various conditions. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002;68(1):65–72. Web:

Yarnpakdee S, et al. Lipid oxidation and fishy odour in protein hydrolysate derived from Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) protein isolate as influenced by haemoglobin. J Sci Food Agric. 2014;94(2):219-226. Web:

Ever wonder why dogs sniff each others’ butts? Or how Adderall works? Or whether it’s OK to pee in the pool? We’ve got you covered: Reactions a web series about the chemistry that surrounds you every day.

Reactions is produced by the American Chemical Society.

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