You carefully selected fresh chicken at the grocery store, only to get home, cook dinner, take a bite, and wonder why does chicken taste like fish?
A fishy taste can ruin a carefully planned dish and make you question the freshness or quality of your chicken.
If you’re wondering why your chicken doesn’t taste like chicken, we’re here to help you find the cause and offer you a few tips to get rid of that fishy taste.
If you wanted fish, you would have chosen the salmon or tilapia after all.
If your chicken tastes like fish, it may be spoiled. Fishy-tasting chicken can also be caused by cooking methods or products used.
We can all agree that chicken should taste like the seasoning we cook it in, or the familiar slightly salty and soft flavor we have all become accustomed to.
There are a few reasons why chicken may sometimes taste fishy, and some of them may be surprising to you.
Reason #1: Source of Chicken and Farming Techniques
One of the most common reasons for fishy-tasting chicken is how the chickens are raised and fed during the farming process.
Without going too much into detail, the diet of the chicken can affect how it tastes even after it’s cooked.
Note: Generic brands tend to feed cheaper ingredients, which can ultimately affect the taste of your chicken dishes.
Reason #2: Cross-Contamination When Cooking
Cross-contaminating meats when prepping ingredients for cooking can also cause certain dishes to take on other flavors.
This can also happen if you cook certain meats together.
If you’re mixing up a casserole with chicken and fish parts and baking it together, this can lead to a fishy taste, even when fully cooked.
Reason #3: Cooking Style
Some cooking styles can also cause the chicken to be fishy.
For example, using the same pan to cook chicken without rinsing it when also cooking fish can lead to a fishy taste.
Even a quick rinse could result in a fishy taste since raw chicken includes polyunsaturated fatty acids which can mix with the oil and cook in the pan.
Note: When protein and lipid oxidation mix, it can lead to a fishy smell or taste.
Even cooking fish in the oven and then baking chicken right after could lead to the chicken having a mildly fishy taste.
Stir-frying, although a common cooking method, can frequently lead to a transfer of flavors between meats.
If you have tried everything else with no success, deep frying instead of stir-frying can help to remove the fishy taste.
Reason #4: Bad Chicken
Chicken that tastes or smells bad could also indicate that the chicken is less than fresh.
It’s more common, however, for a bad chicken to smell like fish than to taste like it.
Raw chicken should be peach in color. If you notice any signs of gray coloring, it’s best to throw out the chicken.
The smell can also indicate the freshness or safety of the cooked chicken.
While a fishy smell doesn’t always mean the chicken is bad, a sour smell does.
Cooked chicken that tastes slightly fishy doesn’t necessarily mean the chicken is bad, but if you’re able to detect any other tastes, it’s best to discard it.
If you have already determined that the fishy taste isn’t coming from rotten chicken, your next step is to learn how to get rid of the taste.
Perhaps you have a dinner party coming up or you’re tired of eating meats that taste like fish for dinner every night.
The good news is that you have a lot of options to mask the taste.
Solution #1: Cover the Taste With Vinegar
Vinegar is a great product for removing fishy flavors from meats. Mix a small amount of vinegar with water and then sprinkle it on top of the chicken.
It’s best to clean the chicken with vinegar before cooking but a vinegar-mixed solution can also save a cooked piece of chicken.
If you already cooked the chicken, coat it with a small mixture of vinegar and water and drop it back in the pan for 3-4 minutes.
Solution #2: Add a Layer of Breading to the Chicken
Breading not only changes your meal options but is also a great way to cover up a subtle taste of fishiness.
You can use a pre-mixed meat breading or make your own with flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs.
If you’re feeling brave, using a breading made out of corn or frosted flakes can mask the fishy flavor even better.
Solution #3: Add Salt to the Chicken
Salt has such a strong flavor that it can also be used to cover up fishy tastes.
Create a mixture of salt and flour and spread it evenly over the chicken when it’s still raw.
Let it sit for 10-20 minutes before cooking the chicken. As a bonus, salt can also remove germs that can contribute to a fishy smell.
Tip: Use salt sparingly.
Solution #4: Use New Cooking Oil Every Time
Reusing cooking oil, even if you have only used it for chicken dishes, can lead to your chicken taking on weird tastes and smells.
Replacing your cooking oil each time and using a freshly cleaned pan may be all you need to do to get rid of the fishy taste.
Cooking oils break down over time and quickly turn rancid, which could be contributing to your weird-tasting dishes.
Solution #5: Use Seasoning
Seasoning is an affordable product that can cover up a mildly fishy taste.
However, it may not be the best option for chicken with strong fish tastes.
Find a seasoning flavor that you enjoy with options like a cajun rub or salt and black pepper being great options for improving the flavor of your chicken.
Tip: You can experiment with seasoning blends to switch up the flavor.
Solution #6: Clean Out Your Refrigerator
Do you know the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator?
If not, this may solve all your fishy problems. Some foods, especially raw chicken, can take on flavors from the refrigerator.
Strong smells, like fish, are more likely to take over other meats when stored near each other.
Remove all outdated foods, including meats, fruits, and vegetables. Then, remove everything else from the fridge and clean it with hot water and baking soda.
Be sure to get the back of shelves and corners where smells can easily get trapped.
Solution #7: Swap to a Different Brand
The fishy taste you’re experiencing may be due to the way the farm raises and feeds the chickens. If this is the case, the best solution is to change brands.
Store brands are more likely to use farms with cheaper farming practices, so they can pass the savings on to you with cheaper pricing.
Tip: Upgrading your chicken to a better or organic product may improve the flavor.
Solution #8: Soak the Chicken in Milk
A common technique used to make fish dishes less fishy is to soak them in milk. The same technique can be used with chicken dishes.
In addition to removing the fishy taste, milk can also make chicken more tender.
Milk breaks down muscle fibers in the chicken, removing both the unwanted tastes and improving the overall flavor.
Tip: Soak the chicken in milk overnight for the best results.
You cook up your favorite chicken dish only to find out that it tastes fishy.
Should you finish eating it or should you throw the whole dish away and start over?
Whether you continue eating chicken that tastes fishy depends on the cause.
You don’t want to eat raw chicken, as this can lead to bacterial-based disease.
The first step is to find out why.
If you’re sure the chicken was fresh and safe to eat, you may have other options available to remove the fishy flavor. Chicken sometimes tastes like fish.
If you can’t determine the cause and you’re not sure that the chicken was fresh and safe, throw it away.
If you still have questions about your chicken tasting like fish, check out the most frequently asked questions on the topic.
What Is the Most Common Cause of Fishy-Tasting Chicken?
The most common cause of chicken that tastes like fish is that the chicken has gone bad.
How Can I Get Rid of the Fishy Taste of Chicken?
You can try to remove the flavor with vinegar, bread crumbs, milk, or seasoning.
If you’ve ever taken a bite of chicken and wondered why does chicken taste like fish, you’re not alone. Chicken sometimes tastes like fish, and their reasons vary.
More often than not, if your chicken tastes like fish, it’s not safe for you to continue eating.
On the other hand, sometimes chicken has a fishy flavor. The best way to remove the taste or mask it is to heavily season the chicken, use breadcrumbs, or rub it with vinegar before cooking.
As always, be sure to check the expiration date and smell the chicken for freshness before cooking and consuming it.