Chicken Smells Like Fish – Why And What To Do?

This doesn’t sound good, right?

Chicken is a staple food in many households, so it’s worth knowing what’s happening if chicken smells like fish.

We can agree on that one.

Let’s check which potential reasons are behind that fishy smell and how to prevent that.

Chicken Tastes Like Fish – What Happens?

This is one of the worst things that could happen when you’re preparing some chicken dish. That is something that could happen with chicken and often has to do something with inadequate storing or preparation. Here are some reasons for that fishy smell:

  • Inadequate storing – This is the most obvious reason. Make sure you’re storing the chicken in the freezer if you won’t use it immediately. If you want to save some chicken for later, store it in the fridge. Also, never left the chicken out overnight. When you’re leaving the chicken in the fridge, seal it properly – that will protect it from absorbing other smells in your fridge. It should be not in contact with any other meat.
  • thawed chicken

  • Refreezing the chicken – The most common mistake people do when dealing with frozen chicken (or meat, in general) is to leave it to defrost at room temperature and then refreeze the remaining meat. Refreezing twice will affect not just the flavor of the meat, it’s a big health risk. So, pack the chicken in small batches. Then you can defrost it quicker and won’t spoil the whole chicken.
  • raw chicken

  • It was bad – It is very important to buy your chicken from a licensed seller. Then you can be assured all protocols have been met. However, it can happen that you bought chicken that already was spoiled.
  • Re-use of the frying oil – If you aren’t properly washing the skillet or the pan, the chicken may absorb the stale smell of the pot. Also, it isn’t safe to re-use the frying oil, even if you’ve used it for the chicken before.
  • frying chicken

  • Dirty utensils – Sometimes the problem is in some sanitary factors, if you’re using dirty utensils or cookware, that could spoil chicken quality. Keep a clean, sanitized kitchen, as well as knives, cutting boards, forks and others.
  • Dirty utensils

  • Unpleasant odor in the freezer – If you haven’t cleaned your freezer in a while, that could be the reason for the fishy smell. An unpleasant odor can develop due to so many different odors in one place. Always seal your chicken properly and throw away items that have gone bad. If it tastes like chicken and smells like fish, the meat probably absorbs other odors.
  • The chicken was fed fish – Some farms feed their chicken with fish because they want to increase the levels of protein in chicken meat. Fortunately, it isn’t very common but can happen.

Why Does My Raw Chicken Smell Like Fish?

You bought a raw chicken, put it on the kitchen counter and it smells like fish. What now?

chicken oovernight
If raw chicken smells like that, there are big chances that it hasn’t been stored properly. And if smells fishy, probably it tastes fishy.

Cooked Chicken Smells Like Fish

Let’s say, you have raw chicken, do the smell test and it smells fine. But after cooking, it turns out the chicken smells fishy. While you preparing the meat, you may not notice its smell very well, but it probably already has that fishy smell and now you can feel it after cooking.

If Chicken Tastes Like Fish, Can You Eat It?

The right answer depends on many factors. You don’t have to throw the chicken away if the expiration day is near and if the meat quality is good.

eating chicken wings

Unfortunately, if raw chicken smells like that, it is bad. But look for other signs of spoilage and if you want to invest your time and effort in salvaging the meat, go for it. But after you make sure the chicken meat isn’t spoiled.

How To Remove That Fishy Smell?

There are some methods you can use to prevent that bad chicken taste, so you can enjoy natural chicken flavors combined with your favorite spices.

You can marinate chicken in a water and vinegar mixture. Coat the chicken in the mixture or water and a few tablespoons of vinegar. Let it sit for about 15-20 minutes before cooking. If you don’t have time to cook it immediately, put the marinated chicken in the fridge. Here you can learn how long can marinated chicken stay in the fridge before cooking.

chicken with seasoning

Another way to keep that fishy smell away is to coat the chicken pieces with a mixture of salt and flour. But before doing that, wash and dry the chicken. Combine two tablespoons of flour with one tablespoon of salt and apply this mixture to the chicken pieces. Leave it for 5-10min, wash the chicken and it’s ready for cooking.

The third way is to cook chicken in tomato sauce. Tomato sauce is a bit acidic so it should neutralize that fishy taste.

tomato sauces

And finally, keep your kitchen clean. Dealing with meat is demanding, requiring clean surfaces and utensils. Meat can easily absorb different flavors and smells.

How To Tell If Chicken Has Gone Bad?

Well, like many poultry and meat products, chicken can go bad. This will affect its texture, smell and taste. If you don’t recognize some signs of spoilage, you can get sick and struggle with many unpleasant issues.

But you can look for certain signs that will tell your chicken is safe to consume. Look for these signs:

  • Appearance and color – If there is raw chicken, it should have a light pink color and white pieces of fat. If the chicken is grey or green, that’s a clear sign of spoilage. Also, if you notice signs of mold growth, you should discard the chicken. When it comes to cooked chicken, it should be white. If you notice signs of mold growth or any color changes, you should throw the chicken away.
  • fresh chicken meat

  • Smell – We already talked about this one, but a foul smell is a sign of spoiled chicken. Remember that raw, fresh chicken will have a very mild smell. Or none at all. Also, don’t rely just on your smell sense.
  • Texture – Raw chicken texture shouldn’t be slimy, sticky or tacky, but glossy and a bit soft. On the other hand, the cooked chicken should be firm and dry.
  • Expiration date – It is important to check the expiration date as well as other signs of spoilage. This date tells you when the food has peak quality.

To Wrap It Up

Being able to tell when the chicken has gone bad will keep you and your family safe from any foodborne illnesses. One of the worst things that can happen when you prepare the dish is when your chicken smells like fish.

As an English major student at the time, Petra was stuck at home with online classes when the lockdown started. Soon enough, Petra discovered a passion for cooking and making pastries to pass the time. She started small with some experimenting and trying out new techniques inspired by French, Italian, and Asian cuisine. Since then, she has become a full-blown “little chef”, making dinner parties for her friends and expanding her knowledge with cooking classes.