If you’re trying to eat better, you’ve probably discovered the magic of salmon. This fish is a delicious but lean source of protein, making it an ideal choice for a satisfying but guilt-free dinner.
However, many health-conscious cooks might be put off the first time they prepare a salmon, due to a surprising and unappetizing byproduct:
That “white stuff” that appears during the cooking process.
As salmon heats up, some foamy white gunk seems to suddenly appear on the fillet. It leaves many cooks confused and concerned about whether or not it’s safe to eat. People tend to assume it’s fat, like in cooked bacon, and it puts them off their once healthy-seeming dinner.
But don’t toss that fish back in the sea just yet—that white stuff is actually harmless.
The “fat” is actually a protein called albumin.
The albumin is a natural part of the fish that is completely safe to eat, just sort of weird-looking.
“When the muscle fibers in the fish are heated, they contract, pushing the moisture-filled albumin to the surface of the flesh,” explains America’s Test Kitchen. “Once this protein reaches temperatures between 140 and 150 degrees, its moisture is squeezed out, and it congeals and turns white.”
Any cooked piece of salmon is going to have some white stuff on it, now matter how it’s prepared or how long it’s heated.
But an excess of albumin might indicate that your salmon might be overcooked and losing moisture.
While the albumin doesn’t have an impact on salmon’s taste or nutritional value, some people still want to get that perfect Instagram-worthy salmon.
There are methods of reducing the appearance of albumin.
America’s Test Kitchen found that brining the fish before cooking helped reduce the white stuff, while the Martha Stewart website suggests a low-heat approach:
“You can reduce the likelihood of its appearance by cooking the fish at a low temperature and removing it from the heat when the center is only partially opaque,” the site reads. “The residual heat will continue cooking the fish.”
But if appearances don’t concern you, you’re good to go with your cooking method of choice. There’s nothing gross or harmful about albumin, so you can enjoy your heart healthy dinner.