Do You Wash Salmon Before Cooking It?

by Charlie
Raw salmon fillet

When it comes to preparing food properly, it’s crucial to follow safety standards and good practices to minimize bacteria. This is particularly true when handling things like raw fish, so if you’re preparing some salmon, you might be hesitating over whether to rinse it or not.

Do you wash salmon before cooking it? There is a lot of conflicting information available online, but the USDA recommends not rinsing any raw fish, or meat or poultry, as a means of getting rid of bacteria. You should therefore avoid rinsing salmon before you cook it, as this won’t help and could actually increase your risk of food poisoning.

Why Shouldn’t You Rinse Salmon?

Many people think that rinsing the fish will help to remove bacteria from the surface prior to cooking. However, rinsing the salmon with cold water will do little to remove the bacteria from the skin, and may simply spread it. You might end up with splashes of raw fish juice on your sink or surfaces, and these could have dangerous bacteria in them.

This bacteria may then be transferred to other foods, your plate, cutlery, hands, kitchen towels, etc. It’s crucial to avoid this happening, as this bacteria may then make you sick if you touch it and transfer it to your face.

You can reduce this risk by implementing good cleaning routines and scrubbing down your sink any time that you handle salmon, but it’s better to remove the risk altogether by simply not rinsing the salmon. Instead, confine it to a dedicated chopping board, where there is no risk of cross contamination, and you can control what it touches.

You should also use one knife for the fish and another for vegetables and ensure that you wash the board and knife well after use. It is a good idea to wipe down the surface you used too, minimizing the risk of any bacteria remaining on it afterwards.

How Should You Remove Bacteria from Salmon?

You can ensure that your salmon is safe to eat by cooking it properly and only using fresh salmon, not salmon that has been left in the fridge or on the counter for too long. As long as your salmon is fresh and reaches an internal temperature of 130 degrees F before being consumed, it should be safe to eat.

You cannot remove bacteria by washing the salmon; this isn’t effective and isn’t safe. Trust the cooking process and avoid trying to wash your salmon.

Why Do Some People Wash Salmon?

Some people wash salmon because they think that this helps to remove bacteria, especially if the salmon isn’t very fresh. It is possible that doing so will wash some bacteria away, but it is likely to spread them around your kitchen, where they may start multiplying on the surfaces or on other foods.

In some cases, people only wash salmon that has aged a bit, but leave fresh salmon unwashed. However, the USDA recommends against washing any seafood, so it’s better to simply transfer your salmon straight to the pan or oven without running it under the tap first.

If you do choose to wash your salmon, make sure you are only using fresh water. You should not put detergent on your salmon; it is not designed for consumption and may get into the flesh, ruining the flavor and making it unsafe to eat.

How Can You Wash Salmon Safely?

If you still want to wash salmon, you can take some steps that will make doing so a bit safer. You should prepare all non-meat products first, and make sure that you thoroughly clean your sink and nearby surfaces after the salmon has been washed.

Wash, peel, and chop any vegetables that you will be preparing before you get the salmon out of the fridge. This reduces the risk of them getting cross-contaminated when you wash the salmon, or after it has been washed.

Keep any foods you won’t be cooking, such as bread, away from the salmon when you wash it. Foods that are being cooked should be slightly safer, but it is still best to keep them separate too.

You should also make sure that you thoroughly scrub your sink and drainer once you have washed the fish. Use detergent and hot water and work methodically so to ensure the area has been thoroughly cleaned.

What Should You Do If Your Salmon Smells Fishy?

You may have noticed that some salmon gives off a much more pungent aroma if it isn’t washed, especially when you cook it. This prompts some people to wash the fish in an attempt to decrease this smell, but it’s best to avoid this. Overall, buying high quality salmon and using it up quickly will reduce the fishy smell.

Of course, fish will have a scent, but usually, fish that is fresh and of good quality will have very little smell, especially while raw. You shouldn’t be able to smell it when it first comes out of the fridge, and it shouldn’t make your house smell bad when you cook it.

Washing the salmon may reduce the smell, but it’s much better to avoid the fishy scent in the first place. You should therefore make sure you are buying and using fresh fish, and not letting it linger in the fridge for too long. If you aren’t going to use it up quickly, consider putting it in the freezer instead.

Make sure that you are buying high quality salmon, too. This should reduce the risk of it having a strong scent. Generally, fresh salmon should smell a little like the sea. If your salmon smells very pungent or excessively fishy, it may no longer be safe to eat, even if it looks fresh to you.

Final Thoughts

Salmon is a very popular fish, and it’s important to prepare it well so that you get the maximum enjoyment from it. You should not be putting salmon in your sink or rinsing it off with cold water. If you decide to do so, make sure that you do this after preparing all your other food, and clean very thoroughly afterward, as there is a risk of spreading bacteria.

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