In this day and age, more and more people are taking extreme measures to remove as much bacteria from their food as possible. This often includes washing proteins before they are marinated and cooked. With salmon being an ever-popular choice, do you wash salmon before cooking or not?
No, there is no benefit to washing salmon before cooking. It will not wash away any bacteria. Instead, salmon should be cooked properly to remove any bacteria.
Why You Shouldn’t Wash Salmon
The major problem with washing salmon (and any raw meat or fish for that matter) is that you risk doing yourself more harm than good.
As you rinse the salmon under a tap, some of the water droplets will rebound off the salmon and onto your work surfaces, floor, sink, tap, backsplash and tiles. You may not even see these droplets.
The problem is that those droplets may now contain the bacteria you were attempting to remove from the salmon. Except now, you don’t even know where they are.
You might then wash vegetables with this bacteria or put your cutlery down on the worktop in this bacteria.
The other reason not to bother washing salmon is there’s no point.
Cooking salmon properly will kill any bacteria that was on the salmon in the first place anyways.
To be completely safe, salmon should be cooked to an internal temperature of around 63C. However, this will often lead to overcooked salmon, as it will continue to cook once it is removed from the oven. This is why it is often better to cook it to around 55C.
What Do the Experts Say?
Well, neither the NHS nor FSA in the UK suggests that salmon or other fish need to be washed before they are cooked to render them safe.
The USDA, however, go one step further when it comes to washing salmon and advises against doing so:
“Do not rinse raw fish, seafood, meat, and poultry. Bacteria in these raw juices can splash and spread to other foods and surfaces. Cooking foods thoroughly will kill harmful bacteria.”USDA
So there are plenty of drawbacks, no significant benefits and even governmental bodies advise against it. There really is no reason to wash salmon.
Why Some People Choose to Wash Salmon
There is a misconception that washing or soaking salmon will eliminate bacteria.
Although washing it may remove some of the bacteria from the salmon, it will then splash against your worktop, tiles and sink – areas that you are not going to clean instantly as you won’t notice the small spots of water (and bacteria) that have landed there.
Washing salmon can also remove the fishy smell you often get when removing salmon from its packaging.
Again, this isn’t a necessary step. Although you may find that the strong odour does dissipate when it is rinsed, simply allowing the air to circulate around the salmon for 10 to 15 minutes after opening it can often be enough to remove the smell.
You can also mute this strong smell by marinating the salmon. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Try a splash of soy sauce, sesame oil, grated ginger and garlic or olive oil, honey, mustard and chopped fresh herbs.
Is Unwashed Salmon Safe?
Yes! Unwashed salmon is safe.
Providing that you have bought fresh salmon that has not been left to sit in the fridge for long periods and that you have then cooked it properly, then unwashed salmon is perfectly safe to consume.
Washing Salmon FAQs
If you have further questions about salmon and whether or not it should be washed, then have a look over these FAQs:
There is no need to wash frozen salmon. Instead, remove it from the freezer and hand-pick large pieces of ice from the fillets. You can then leave them to thaw slowly in the fridge.
There is no need to do this. Although soaking it may get rid of some of the smell, it won’t improve the quality of the fish. Instead, marinating it and then cooking it correctly is a better way to remove bacteria and enjoy the flavour of the salmon.
No, there is no need to wash salmon before you marinate it. Instead, remove it from the packaging then, pop it straight into your marinade and then back into the fridge.
Yes, giving salmon a quick pat dry with some paper towels before it is cooked is a great way to improve the texture of the fish.
Lewis is the founder and editor of Let’s Foodie alongside other food-related platforms including FreezeIt and SubstituteIt. He launched Let’s Foodie to provide aspiring cooks with one place to get the answers to some of the most commonly asked cooking questions.