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Thread: Fish Fat

  1. #1
    Member Tomcat's Avatar
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    Unhappy Fish Fat

    Hopefully, this topic for discussion isn't too far in the weeds. With salmon fishing season still a few months off, guess I've had time to ponder issues that I might not normally give much consideration...

    For what it's worth, I smoke most of my catch. When it comes to eating salmon, I tend to avoid eating the dark layer of "fat" between the skin and flesh -- regardless of the way it's prepared.

    This fatty portion of a salmon tends to possess a fishy flavor that I find extremely distasteful -- although to a lesser degree with sockeye.

    From what I understand, a lot of toxins and impurities collect in fish fat. Yet, a co-worker claims that it's the best part of a salmon to consume from a health food standpoint.

    Taking the time to scrape away the fish fat from a prime fillet can lessen the dining experience somewhat, but it's the only way I know to avoid a bitter bite.

    Wonder whether a milk bath before cooking would take the edge off.

    So how do you address the fish fat dilemma -- or do you?

  2. #2
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    sound like u need to start catching "skinny fish!"
    personally I like the fat, specifically when its smoked,

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomcat View Post
    From what I understand, a lot of toxins and impurities collect in fish fat. Yet, a co-worker claims that it's the best part of a salmon to consume from a health food standpoint.
    Yes, toxins will accumulate in fat, but salmon's life span, depending on species, is no more than 5 or 6 years - they won't bioaccumulate much in that time. And the fat in salmon (and other oily fish) is what has the Omega 3 fatty acids.

    From an online source:

    "More recent research has established that fish oils (EPA and DHA) play a crucial role in the prevention of atherosclerosis, heart attack, depression, and cancer.
    Clinical trials have shown that fish oil supplementation is effective in the treatment of many disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, and Raynaud's disease."

    Maybe if we eat nothing but wild Alaska salmon we'll all live to be 100! (But better not scrape off the fat)
    "The Gods do not subtract from the allotted span of men's lives the hours spent in fishing" Assyrian Tablet 2000 B.C.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    The fish fat will get gamey over time, but on fresh salmon, it does not taste fishy. Therefore I don't do anything with it on fresh salmon, but when I'm trimming fillets into strips for cold smoking, I'll trim off and discard the fat.

  5. #5
    Member Ripface's Avatar
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    Default

    Until recently, I would "pick" the meat from the brown fat stuff, leaving that and the skin. But the last few times I've eaten from the bottomless freezer of salmon, I would cut the fat and skin off, leaving just the prime cut. I've always cooked salmon with the skin on, though I don't know why, since I skin all my other fish completely before eating them. Maybe I'll just start skinning the salmon when I clean them. Omega-3 is throughout the meat, and that's really the best healthy characteristic of salmon. I'll scrape off all my fat and save it for POLE BENDER. I'll ship it to you at the end of fishing season.
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    Smile It's meat, not fat. . .

    Here's the way I understand it: First, a fish's fat is concentrated in the belly and on top of the backbone, and, when cooked, is easily recognizable as fat—greasy and translucent.

    The dark meat just under the skin and along the median line is just that, dark meat. The difference between the dark side meat on a salmon and the lighter colored body meat is analogous to the light and dark meat of a chicken. The dark meat simply has more blood veins in it, and to me tastes no different than any other part of the fish.

    A wild duck's breast meat is dark because of blood supply—the muscles need the increased blood supply because they work hard. A chicken's breast meat is white—less blood because the muscles don't need it. Chickens aren't long distance flyers.

    Same with the salmon—it's all meat, not fat, colored differently because of more or less blood supply, which allows the different muscles to do their different jobs.

    And if you want to see fish's fat, real fat—trim the bellies off some sockeye or a king and lay them on the grill. When the meat is cooked, you'll have no trouble identifying the fat as you pick out the meat.


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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    When you're talking belly meat, ie the oily greasy meat, then that is by far my favorite part of the salmon, especially when smoked! Nothing better then licking the oil off your fingers when eating smoked belly meat.

    The brown stuff on the sides definately does have a very strong taste, and that's what I can do without. I like dark meat on birds, but the brown stuff on fish, no thanks.

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    Default fish fat?

    Marcus is correct. The gray matter nearest the skin is indeed meat. Fat is concentrated within the flesh itself. Different fish have different types of flesh depending on what their "duties" are. Salmon, tuna, etc. are endurance creatures and have "musculuture" to help them achieve long marathons at sea. Pike and other predatory fish have muscles designed for quick bursts of speed to capture prey. Different colors of flesh determined largely by the amount of blood carried to it, as I understand it. Also, salmonids feed largely on creatures containing large quantities of carotonids (carotene) that accounts for the orangeish flesh pigmentation. Correct me if Im wrong, college biology was a long time ago. You can see the FAT from your salmon as it bubbles up as white matter when you grill your fish. Eat it, it's good for you!

  9. #9

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    Fat is fat and looks like fat in all animals. The white stuff that cooks up is pellsel (spelling) the cell membrane that boils up while cooking or smoking.

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    Default The dark band

    I too consider the dark layer to be distasteful. I have found that the meat around it, be it in halibut or salmon, tastes far different than the darker band. My wife doesn't mind it, but I leave it on the plate.
    I wonder if that dark band would taste any different if the fish were bled out...?

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    Default Bleed your salmon

    If you bleed your salmon, that dark meat won't have nearly the objectionable flavor I'm seeing posted about. As soon as you catch your red/king/silver/whatever, cut those gills and let the fish bleed. That blood won't then end up in the meat.

    I never have a problem with the dark meat. Even after a year in the freezer. And I leave the skin on. Leaving the skin on is added protection from freezer burn. If the fish is over a year old, I will sometimes take off the skin, then remove the dark meat if the extended freezer time has made this part of the fish objectionable. That rarely occurs.

    I am fastidious about careing for my salmon. I ice it ASAP and don't let it slog around in fetid water all day. If the gills have gone pale, you've waited too long to ice 'em. I'll even make an extra walk or two to the cooler filled with ice just to be sure I have iced my fish in a timely manner. Why spend hours on the stream or dipnetting only to come home with a 2nd or 3rd rate product? All my fish is either smoked, then vacuum packed, or vacuum packed fresh & frozen, or canned right from the cooler. I don't skimp on the ice. I'd prefer spending an extra dollar or two on ice than end up with less-than-firm fish.

    As for the bellys - I save them and smoke 'em. Absolutely delicious! When I go out on a backpacking trip, I like to grab a vacuum packed bag of frozen, smoked bellys. What a fantastic treat for the first day on the trail!

  12. #12
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    Default bleed your fish..

    I too bleed my salmon as soon as they come out of the water, while the heart is still pumping to help. I then gut and head, remove the kidney, and if ice isnt immediately handy, place into a wet burlap bag and stick it in the shade. The burlap allows water to evaporate at a decent rate and cools fish very adequately. Ive been able to keep fish very long this way before they were put on ice. I've never been bothered with "dark" meat having a strong taste with any of my salmon. Personally, when I hear people say they dont like the taste of salmon, I strongly suspect poor handling in the field.

  13. #13
    Member Tomcat's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Interesting and enlightening comments...

    The explanation that salmon have both light and dark meat like a chicken or turkey, makes perfect sense. Areas of the body with greater blood flow produce darker meat.

    That's certainly a good reason for anglers to bleed their fish while the heart is still beating, which I do immediately after landing and delivering a solid bonk to the top of the head. However, I admit to not usually placing my catch on ice right away, so that may be a factor in the fishy taste of the dark meat.

    Meanwhile, from what I understand, the higher the oil content in a salmon's flesh, the better the flavor. That's why kings and sockeye are so highly regarded. These fish carry the largest fat reserves and, thus, are widely considered to be the best tasting of the five salmon species in Alaska.

    As a side note, it's been my experience that silvers tend to possess the thickest layer of dark meat and the most bitter flavor. Perhaps it has to do with these fish having a lower oil content than their cousins.

    Anyway, I agree that there's nothing better than opening a vacuumed sealed package of smoked salmon that's swimming in it's own oil. Wow, talk about flavor. Even better, it's good for you. Salmon bellies are a wonderful treat as well. Great stuff!

  14. #14
    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Default Don't bother with the "Bonk"

    I never whack my fish when I land them. I go straight for the gills and string em up. I let them soak in the moving water for 10 minutes or so and they bleed themselves out by working their gills in a normal breathing fashion. If you bonk them, they lose brain activity and don't work their gills and it is less effective when it comes to bleeding out. You get a MUCH nicer fillet if the fish have been bled out prior to. They don't even require a rinse most of the time.
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    Default never whack

    I never whack my fish, unless its a big king that I can't handle. They don't bleed out as well, I immediatly upon retention slit the gills and hold fish in the currant or move them from side to side. This helps remove all blood and leads to a very clean tasty fillet. I have watched fish aftrer fish be bonked then cleaned without bleeding, and they are always a bloody mess that requires much rinsing. Also if the fish has recieved any bruises, and is not bled it is almost impossible to get the blood out of the bruise wich leaves a lousy taste. Bleeding also helps keep meat firmer and cool faster. I do gut right away, but i DON'T remove the head before filleting because it exposes unprotected meat to potentially contaminated water and softens the meat.

    As far as freezing goes be sure your fillet is dry before you vacum seal it this will help ensure a better seal and reduce freezer burn, freezer burn leaves fish with a very strong fishy flavor and slightly sour. If a fish fillet is showing signs of discoloring especially around the edges trim those parts off and the fish will be much better tasting. My family eats fresh and smoked salmon all year (from the freezer) at least two times a week and they never complain of quality

    notes/tips

    1-flash freeze when possible
    2-never toss or bonk the vacum sealed packages especially when frozen, this breaks seal, and seperates the bag from the fillet = freezer burn
    3-do not thaw then refreeze
    4- always bleed fish
    5-skin helps prevent freezer burn for fish that will be frozen for longer periods of time
    6- don't use a frost free freezer a frost free freezer will periodically warm and cool to eliminate frost, fish are very suseptible to temperature changes even when frozen.

  16. #16
    Moderator Daveinthebush's Avatar
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    Default Akfishfool

    Good advice. Bleeding helps. Also if you wrap the fish in 2-3 layes of plastic wrap prior to inserting into the vacumn bags, it helps to prevent bones from punching the bags and you get less moisture into the vacumn sealer.
    Last edited by Daveinthebush; 03-22-2007 at 10:57. Reason: added

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    Default Dealing with freezer-burn. . .

    I've thawed freezer-burned fish that the cats wouldn't eat—no kidding.

    But whenever I even suspect a slight degree of freezer-burn, I trim off an eighth to a quarter-inch all around and, using an electric knife, skim off that much or so from the top side. What's underneath is just fine.

    Nothing better than good salmon and nothing worse than bad.

    For what it's worth, I've noticed "bonked" fishs' hearts beating for ten to fifteen minutes after being headed right after bonking. Maybe it's okay to bonk, just don't immediately head the fish, allowing the heart to pump the blood out the cut gills?


  18. #18
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    Default Bleeding

    something to try if you are in the meat mode and not too concerned w/ pictures.
    try slicing the fish just above the tail, cutting across the back bone but not through it. grab the tail and break the backbone @ the tail and fold over. after you have done this a time or two it just takes seconds. on a fish that has not been "bonked" the blood will actually flow out in a steady stream, some times going 2-3 feet away.
    i have been doing this for quite a few years with river caught fish, amazing how much more blood you actually get out of the fish than if you cut the gills.
    note-- this can make for an EXTREMLY messy deck doing it in your boat!

  19. #19
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    Default The Benefits far outweight the risks, & "bad" taste...

    When it comes to fish fat, in particular the Salmon fat...I dont' know why so many fishermen complain about the product they fish for when they don't wanna eat the fish, heads, eye, skin & all (hearts included)...it's akin to playing with your food... :P

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomcat View Post
    Hopefully, this topic for discussion isn't too far in the weeds.
    Apparently Not! This has turned into quite a lengthy and enlightening thread.
    "The Gods do not subtract from the allotted span of men's lives the hours spent in fishing" Assyrian Tablet 2000 B.C.

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