There’s nothing quite like that eye-watering smell from uncooked, forgotten fish left in the fridge.
But before you scale back your fish intake or throw perfectly good meat in the bin, there are a few ways you can minimise that dreaded stench.
The cells in a live fish contain an odourless molecule called trimethylamine oxide. But after a fish is caught, bacteria break down the molecule into trimethylamine. It’s the amine part of the molecule that stinks and leaves us reeling.
The latest video from the American Chemical Society’s Reactions team – below – shows us three ways to combat the smell.
The first is to wash the uncooked fish with cold water. This simply rinses off the bacteria and trimethylamine on the surface of the fish.
The second is to soak the fish in milk for 20 minutes. A protein in milk called casein binds with trimethylamine, extracting it from the fish so you can wash it down the sink with the milk.
And the third trick is to cook the fish in an acidic liquid, dunking it an acidic sauce or covering it with lemon. Since trimethylamine is basic, reacting it with acid molecules produces acid salt and water, neither of which have a smell.
Anthea Batsakis is a freelance journalist in Melbourne, Australia.
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