Should Tuna Smell Fishy? The Key Facts

Tuna is a popular and nutritious fish that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, from sushi to canned varieties. But when it comes to buying and preparing tuna, there’s one question that often arises: should tuna smell fishy?

The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. While some types of fish are expected to have a strong fishy odor, tuna should actually have a mild, delicate flavor with no overpowering smell.

In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why tuna might smell fishy, how to tell if it has gone bad, and what to look for when buying fresh or frozen tuna.

So, let’s dive in and discover the truth about tuna!

Should Tuna Smell Fishy?

As mentioned earlier, tuna should not have a strong fishy smell. In fact, a fresh piece of tuna should have a mild, clean scent that reminds you of the ocean. If you notice a strong fishy odor coming from your tuna, it’s likely that the fish is old and has started to spoil.

It’s important to note that some types of tuna, such as canned or pouch varieties, may have a slightly stronger smell due to the preservation process. However, even in these cases, the smell should not be overpowering or unpleasant.

What Causes Tuna To Smell Fishy?

The reason why fish, including tuna, can develop a fishy smell has to do with the natural process of decay and some unique physiology that is specific to sea creatures. Water in the open ocean has a salt content of about 3% by weight, but the optimal levels of dissolved minerals inside an animal cell is less than 1%. To maintain fluid balance, ocean creatures must fill their cells with amino acids and amines to counter the saltiness of seawater. Ocean fish tend to rely on trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) for this purpose.

The problem arises when fish are killed, and bacteria and fish enzymes convert TMAO into trimethylamine (TMA), which gives off the characteristic “fishy” odor. This chemical is especially common in the flesh of cold-water surface-dwelling fish like cod. So, it’s possible that canned tuna may have a slightly stronger smell due to the preservation process. Manufacturers precook whole tuna before processing and then clean, separate, and cook it again once inside the can. This process is necessary to kill bacteria, but it can also cause the creation of a histamine that can give canned tuna that “fishy” smell.

To reduce the fishy smell in tuna, TMA on the surface of the fish can be rinsed off with tap water. Treating the fish with acidic ingredients such as lemon, vinegar, or tomato can also cause TMA to bind to water and become less volatile. This way, the odor compounds do not reach your nose, and you can enjoy fresh-tasting tuna without any unpleasant smells.

Signs That Tuna Has Gone Bad

If you’re unsure whether your tuna has gone bad, there are several signs to look out for. One of the most obvious signs is a strong, unpleasant fishy smell. While tuna does have a naturally pungent aroma, it should not be overpowering or offensive. If the smell makes you want to plug your nose, it’s likely that the tuna is no longer fresh.

Another sign of spoiled tuna is a slimy texture. Fresh tuna should feel firm and moist, but not slimy. As the fish begins to go bad, it will develop a slimy film on the surface that is both unappetizing and potentially dangerous to eat.

You should also pay attention to the color of your tuna. Fresh tuna should be dark red or maroon in color. If it looks yellow, wilted, or otherwise unappetizing, it’s likely that it has started to spoil. Additionally, if you notice any green shades on the tuna, it’s best to avoid eating it altogether.

Finally, if you’re still unsure whether your tuna has gone bad, you can try rubbing the scales of the fish. Fresh tuna should have tight, firm scales that do not rub off easily. If the scales come off easily or the fish falls apart when touched, it’s a sign that it has started to decompose.

How To Properly Store Tuna To Avoid A Fishy Smell

Proper storage is key to keeping your tuna fresh and avoiding a fishy smell. If you’re buying fresh tuna, make sure to use it within a day or two of purchase. If you’re not planning on using it right away, store it in the coldest part of your refrigerator, ideally at a temperature of 32-39°F.

When it comes to canned tuna, it’s important to check the expiration date before purchasing. Once you’ve opened the can, transfer any unused tuna to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. Make sure to use it within a few days to avoid any potential spoilage.

To further prevent a fishy smell, consider adding some acid to your tuna. This can be in the form of lemon juice or vinegar, which will help neutralize any unpleasant odors. Another tip is to soak your tuna in milk for 30 minutes before cooking or consuming. The enzymes in the milk will help reduce any strong smells.

Tips For Buying Fresh Tuna

When it comes to buying fresh tuna, there are a few things you should look for to ensure that you’re getting a high-quality product. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Look for a bright, shiny appearance: Fresh tuna should have a shiny, almost translucent appearance. Avoid tuna that appears dull or matte, as this could be a sign that the fish is old or has been mishandled.

2. Check the color: Tuna can range in color from deep red to pink, depending on the variety. Regardless of the color, the flesh should be moist and vibrant. Avoid tuna that is brown or discolored, as this could indicate that it is old or has been exposed to too much oxygen.

3. Smell it: As mentioned earlier, fresh tuna should have a mild, clean scent that reminds you of the ocean. If the fish smells overly fishy or sour, it’s likely that it has started to spoil.

4. Check for firmness: Fresh tuna should have a firm texture and hold its shape well. If the flesh feels mushy or falls apart easily, it’s likely that the fish is old or has been mishandled.

5. Consider the cut: Tuna steaks are a popular choice for grilling or pan-searing, but you can also buy a whole tuna and cut it up yourself. If you’re buying steaks, look for cuts that are at least 1 1/2 inches thick to prevent them from drying out during cooking.

6. Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask your fishmonger about the tuna they’re selling. Find out where it was caught, how it was handled and stored, and when it was brought in. A reputable fishmonger will be happy to answer your questions and help you choose the best product.

By following these tips, you can ensure that you’re buying fresh, high-quality tuna that will taste delicious and be safe to eat. Remember to always use your senses when shopping for fish – if something doesn’t look, smell, or feel right, it’s best to err on the side of caution and choose a different product.

The Difference Between Fresh And Canned Tuna In Terms Of Smell

Fresh tuna has a very mild and delicate flavor with no strong fish taste or smell. It may have a slight scent of the sea, but it should not be overpowering. If raw tuna has a strong fishy flavor, it means that it is not fresh and should be discarded. Fresh tuna should smell clean, fresh, and like the ocean, whether it’s packed in a pouch, can or sold as a whole fish.

On the other hand, canned tuna is precooked before it is processed. This process is necessary to kill bacteria, but it can also cause the creation of a histamine that can give the canned tuna that “fishy” smell. Manufacturers know this and take steps to minimize the smell, but it may still be noticeable to some people. However, even in canned tuna, the smell should not be unappetizing or overpowering.

It’s important to note that some people may have a heightened sensitivity to the smell of fish due to the choline content found in most fish. The B-complex vitamin found in large quantities in most fish, especially larger fish like tuna can cause some people to excrete choline for days after eating it. This condition is treatable with a change in diet and prescription antibiotics.

Delicious Ways To Enjoy Tuna Without A Strong Fishy Flavor

If you’re not a fan of the strong fishy taste that tuna can sometimes have, don’t worry – there are plenty of delicious ways to enjoy this nutritious fish without the overpowering flavor. Here are some ideas:

1. Tuna Salad with a Twist: Instead of the classic tuna salad, try adding some jalapeño for a little spice and lemon for acidity. This will help to negate any fishy tastes or smells that you may not enjoy.

2. Tuna Dip: Mix canned tuna with Greek yogurt and mustard, and add in some salty or sweet additions such as capers or grapes. This can be spread over crackers for a tasty and savory snack.

3. Fresh Tuna Steaks: If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on fresh tuna steaks, try grilling or searing them with some lemon and herbs for a delicate and clean flavor.

4. Tuna Poke Bowl: This popular Hawaiian dish features fresh raw tuna marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil, served over rice with vegetables and toppings such as avocado and seaweed. It’s a flavorful and healthy way to enjoy tuna without any overpowering fishy taste.

5. Tuna Cakes: Similar to crab cakes, these can be made with canned tuna, breadcrumbs, egg, and seasonings such as garlic and parsley. Serve with a dipping sauce such as chipotle mayo to mask any unwanted flavors.

By trying out these delicious ways to enjoy tuna without a strong fishy flavor, you’ll be able to appreciate all the health benefits of this protein-packed fish without any unpleasant tastes or smells.