This is one of those scenarios which sounds like a chef’s worst nightmare! A succulent chicken, cooked fresh from the grocery store, which for some reason tastes like fish—disaster!
So, why does my chicken taste like fish? There are various reasons why chicken might taste like fish. This could be because the raw chicken has gone bad, or because of contamination during the storage, preparation, and cooking of your chicken. However, if you are positive that the chicken is fresh then you can disguise the fishy flavor with strong acidic sauces such as a tomato ragu.
So, if you’ve got an unusual fishy tang to your chicken, don’t panic!
We’ll take a look at all the reasons why your chicken might taste like fish and discover if it is safe to eat. We’ll also find out the best ways to fix the flavor of a chicken that tastes like fish.
Why Might Chicken Taste Like Fish?
So, you’ve cooked a delicious, succulent chicken from the grocery store, to serve up to the family. You carve it at the table, serve up a couple of slices to everyone, and tuck in.
But instead of the delectable juicy chicken flavor, you were expecting, you find that your chicken tastes like fish!
Now, you might think this is a disaster, and that may well be the case. However, it may be that your chicken is safe to eat, and you can fix the fishy flavor with just some simple amendments.
So don’t throw away your carefully cooked chicken—let’s take a look at what might have gone wrong!
The first thing to note is that we don’t take any chances with chicken. If there is the slightest possibility that it may have gone bad, then it must be discarded.
Unfortunately, if you have already cooked your chicken, the only way to be sure is to have checked it thoroughly before cooking.
The other problem is that you can’t always tell if raw chicken is spoiled. This is a big problem when raw chicken is left at room temperature, as bacteria will quickly multiply, making it unfit for consumption.
However, if you are 100% confident that your chicken has not gone bad, there are some other reasons why it might taste like fish.
We’ve had it drummed into us for years that raw chicken should always be prepared using separate utensils to all our other ingredients.
But what happens if you’re in a hurry, or you just don’t have any clean equipment available? Well, most of us would prep our other ingredients first, then use the same board and knife for cutting up our chicken.
However, this could be the source of the fishy taste in your cooked chicken!
Using a dirty knife blade or chopping board can contaminate the flavor of your chicken. And weirdly, it doesn’t have to be contaminated with fish to give your chicken a fishy tang!
Any kind of food residue on your utensils can result in an odd taste to your food, often very reminiscent of fish.
To avoid this problem, take the time to wash any knives and chopping boards before preparing raw chicken.
This is the most common reason why cooked chicken might taste like fish and one that many people are unaware of. The way you cook your chicken is the main culprit when it comes to a weird fishy taste!
This mostly occurs when chicken is fried in an unwashed skillet or pan, or when oil is reused for cooking multiple times.
It is not that the oil or pan taste of fish, but when oil is heated more than once it can start to undergo changes which will taint your chicken with odd flavors.
There is also thought to be a chemical process in the fatty tissue of chicken that can occur when it is fried at a lower heat. Some unsaturated fats undergo changes that give them a weird fishy odor and taste.
To avoid these problems, always use a clean skillet and oil when frying chicken. I recommend this skillet I found on Amazon! Cook the chicken over medium heat, ensuring it is cooked thoroughly before serving.
Raw chicken will easily absorb other odors and flavors during storage. If it is stored in the same airspace as other strong-smelling foods, it will take these on, tainting the flesh of your chicken.
And it doesn’t have to be fish to give your chicken a fishy taste!
Keep your raw chicken tightly wrapped, ideally in an airtight container. A layer of greaseproof paper lining the interior of your container can help keep the chicken tasting fresh and, well, like chicken!
Type of Chicken
Please don’t think we’ve gone crazy here, but chickens do tend to taste like what they eat! This is why free-range chicken has so much more flavor than a barn-reared one.
They get a much more varied diet, which is reflected in the taste.
In the past, a lot of chickens were fed fishmeal as a cheap way to add nutrition to their diet. This resulted in chickens that tasted strongly of fish; definitely not pleasant!
This is not common practice these days, but if you are consistently finding that your chicken tastes like fish, it might be an idea to try a different supplier.
Is Chicken That Tastes Like Fish Safe to Eat?
Whether your fish-flavored chicken is safe to eat depends very much on the reason it is tainted in the first place. Remember the golden rule when it comes to chicken: if in doubt, throw it out!
If you are 100% sure that your chicken was perfectly fresh before cooking, then it will be safe to eat. However, whether it tastes good is another matter!
Luckily, it is possible to modify your chicken to mask the fishy flavor. Let’s take a look at the best ways to fix chicken that tastes like fish!
How to Fix Chicken That Tastes Like Fish
If you’re dishing up your chicken for dinner and it tastes like fish, it might be tricky to fool your family into eating it there and then. However, a few simple hacks can transform your chicken into a tasty meal for another night!
When it comes to disguising fishy flavors in chicken, then anything acidic becomes your best friend.
These simple ingredients will cut through the chicken, giving a rich flavor to your cooked meat. OK, so it might not taste much like chicken either, but at least it will taste good!
Vinegar is one of our favorite household top tips, and it will easily disguise the fishy flavor of your chicken!
Make a creamy white wine vinegar sauce with plenty of cracked black pepper, and your family will be wolfing it down in no time.
The acid tang of tomatoes is perfect for hiding any fishy tangs in your cooked chicken. Try making a rich, herby ragu to serve over pasta.
Lemon juice is one of our favorite pairings with chickens anyway, and it is excellent for counteracting fishy flavor.
Marinade your cooked chicken in a herby lemon juice base, and warm it through gently for a hot summer salad.
Now that we’ve gone over what to do if your chicken ends up tasting like fish, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
How Can You Tell if Raw Chicken Is Spoiled?
If your raw chicken has been stored correctly and is within its use-by date, there are a few simple ways to check it is safe to eat before cooking:
- Smell—bad chicken has a sulfurous odor. Fresh chicken should have a very mild smell, many people say it smells of nothing at all!
- Color—bad chicken has a green or grey tinge to the flesh, and the fat will be turning yellow in color. Fresh chicken is light pink, with white fat.
- Texture—bad chicken is slimy, tacky, or sticky to the touch. Fresh chicken should be soft and glossy and feel dry.
However, remember that you cannot always tell if raw chicken is spoiled!
If fresh chicken has been left out in a warm room for more than an hour then it is very likely that it will already have deteriorated to the point that it is unsafe to eat, even if it looks fine.
This is why correct storage methods are essential when keeping chicken safe to eat.
What Is the Best Way to Store Raw Chicken?
The best way to store raw chicken depends on how soon you are going to eat it:
- Room temperature—raw chicken which is going to be cooked or frozen within one hour.
- Refrigerator—raw chicken which is going to be cooked or frozen within 48 hours.
- Freezer—long-term storage of chicken for up to one year.
Remember that it is not just warm temperatures that cause raw chicken to spoil; exposure to air is also a large factor.
Always keep your raw chicken covered up, ideally in an airtight bag or container. This will also help to prevent freezer burn.