The other night, on one of my favorite Bravo shows, Below Deck Mediterranean, Captain Sandy gently reprimanded the chef for serving dark meat on fish to the guests. As we try to eat more of a Mediterranean Diet, I’m trying to incorporate more fish into our meal plans, and the show got me thinking, what is the dark meat on fish? Is it safe to eat?
My family cooked straightforward foods growing up, and we only ate fish on Fridays during Lent. I’ve had a fear of cooking fish– specifically improperly cooking it. I decided I had to get to the bottom of why some fish meat is brown or dark and is it safe to eat?
Let’s go to The Chalkboard.
What Causes Dark Meat On Fish?
- Genetics – Some varieties are just darker than others. Atlantic Pollock, for instance, has a gray color when raw but cooks up to a clear white.
- Muscles – There is a large stripe of brown muscle just underneath the skin in many species, which runs to the tail. The more active the fish is, the more muscle it has and the more color you see. Flat fish like halibut, sole, and flounder don’t move around too much, so their flesh is primarily white. Herring and mackerel never stop swimming, making them more muscular and, therefore, darker.
- Environment – Farmed fish is sometimes darker than wild varieties of the same species, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Most people will say that farm-raised fish is superior, but there’s no clear answer on whether one is better than the other. A little research will help you make the best decision for your family.
- Spoilage – Although this is not often an issue, the smell would be terrible, and anything that rotten isn’t fit for sale.
- How They Are Handled – The fish’s blood can cause the meat to turn brown. The blood is drained if a fish is gutted upon capture, and the fillets won’t be affected. But if a fish is filleted right away, some blood can seep into the meat, causing discoloration. You may also encounter some brown spots that are the result of bruising.
- Improper Storage – Fish that is not frozen correctly can change color.
Can You Eat Dark Meat On Fish?
Most of the time, YES, you can eat dark meat.
It is safe to eat mackerel, herring, and other species that are naturally darker colored.
Is it ok to eat the brown part of salmon? Yes, that flesh connects to the skin is safe to eat. Some even say that is their favorite part along with a crispy skin.
You can also eat the muscular part of fish, although some people may not enjoy the taste as it could possibly taste gamey.
You should NOT eat dark meat on the fish if it smells or looks bad. Your senses are some of the best ways to see if something is safe to eat. Fresh fish will smell like saltwater and have clear eyes.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions to your fishmonger. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask where the fish was caught, when it was brought into the store, etc. If they make you feel uncomfortable go somewhere else!
What Do You Think?
Do you eat the dark meat of fish? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to hear!
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