What’s That Weird Stuff Coming Out of Salmon?

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Sarah E Crowder)

You went to the store, bought yourself a gorgeous, pinky-red fillet of salmon, came home and cooked it just like the recipe said, and all of a sudden this white, filmy gunk has begun to seep out of your beautiful fish. Not cool salmon, not cool.

So, what exactly is this stuff? What causes it to show up, and is there anything you can do to prevent it?

What Is That Weird White Stuff?

Alright, let’s get straight to it. The white stuff (or albumin) is coagulated protein, not fat, which in my opinion is a relief. I’d be pretty upset if so much fat began seeping out of my salmon. After all, that’s where all the flavor is! The protein begins to coagulate — or clump up — once it’s in the presence of heat, and pushes out through the flakes of the fish. It’s harmless, it’s pretty unappetizing to look at, and it’s also a sign that your salmon is probably overcooked. Overcooked salmon is going to be dry. No thanks. Let’s avoid that.

And no, cooking your salmon a different way isn’t going to change the amount of albumin you see. Pan-seared, broiled, roasted, grilled — you’re going to get the goo. But there is a solution that comes before cooking; it takes 10 minutes and it a good technique to employ whenever you’re cooking protein. You brine the fish!

A quick dip in a salty bath (throw in some other flavors while you’re at it!) will help mitigate too much albumin from ruining your Instagram-worthy salmon.

The only key moment here — pay attention to doneness and cook times. Salmon is done when easily flaked. You can check the doneness of your salmon with a fork. When it flakes easily with a fork, it’s ready. If you like, you can use an instant read thermometer to check the fish for doneness. The USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 145°F, which should be measured at the thickest part of the fillet.