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How to Get Rid of Fish Smell After Cooking

Cooking Fish in a Pan

Remove the fish smell after cooking by selecting a less smelly fish or during preparation with these helpful tips.

  • Choose a freshwater or anadromous fish.
  • Rinse fish with tap water or soak in milk.
  • Choose a cooking technique that will keep the smell contained.
  • Store leftover in a tightly sealed container, take out the trash, and open the windows.

If you are hesitant to cook fish at home because you are worried about the smell, don’t be. The taste and nutritional benefits of cooked fish are well worth it! Here is some information, along with tips and tricks to help limit and remove fish odors.

Why Does Fish Smell?

Saltwater fish smell due to a natural process where trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), which helps fish maintain fluid balance, is converted to fishy-smelling trimethylamine (TMA) when exposed to air.

Freshwater fish can give off a "muddy" smell due to geosmin and methylisoborneol from their environment. The smell intensifies the longer the fish is dead.

Which Type of Fish Smell the Least?

One way to help reduce the fish odor is to buy fish that are less likely to have that unique odor.

Here are a few things to consider when purchasing fish if you are looking to avoid the fishy odor altogether:

  • Fresh fish will smell and taste the least fishy.
  • Freshwater and anadromous fish smell less fishy than 100% saltwater fish due to the absence of TMA.
  • Skip bottom feeders, like catfish, to avoid a “muddy” odor.

A fresh anadromous or freshwater fish that is a non-bottom feeder is the best option for those looking to avoid a fish odor. Fish like Arctic char or tilapia are great options.

How to Get Fish Smell Out of the House

A lot of people enjoy fish with the flavors of seafood but don’t enjoy the lingering smell of fish in their houses. There are a few steps that you can take to keep your house from smelling like fish.

  • Buy fresh fish. The best-tasting fish that will have the least odor is a fish you catch yourself. If that's not possible, we recommend you buy your fish close to the source. The shorter the supply chain, the fresher the fish will be.
  • Freeze fresh seafood if you don’t plan on cooking it within three days of purchase. This will maintain the seafood's freshness and prevent it from developing a fishy odor.

Get Rid of Fish Smell During Prep

Before you start cooking, there are some steps you can take to reduce the fish smell.

  • Keep the fish in its original packaging until you are ready to cook it. This will help keep the fish fresh and prevent the spread of odors. Keep a box of baking soda, activated charcoal, or another odor absorber in your fridge to help absorb any odors.
When you are ready to cook it there are a few steps you can take to reduce the smell:
  • Rinse the fish with tap water. This will wash off any TMA on the fish’s skin.
  • Soak the fish in milk for approximately 20 minutes and then rinse it off in cold tap water.
  • Rub an acidic ingredient on top of the fish, like lime, lemon, tomato, or vinegar. This will add bright flavors to the fish when cooking.

Acids and milk are both great odor absorbents. They work similarly to baking soda only you can apply them directly to the fish.

How does an acid like lemon juice remove the fishy odor? Citric acid neutralizes the amines in fish by converting them into healthy salts that will not be airborne like the amines.

Keep Fish From Smelling While Cooking

Applying heat to fish releases its odors. Cooking with fish will inevitably cause your kitchen to smell a little fishy. However, some cooking techniques can help keep the smell from spreading.

  • Make a pouch: Wrap your fish in parchment paper or foil to help contain the smell and prevent it from enveloping your entire house. It will also infuse the fish with whatever other ingredients you include in the pouch.
  • Poach your fish: Cooking your fish in boiling water will help trap the TMA in the liquid. Using milk instead of water is great for trapping the odors and leaves you with a flaky, creamy fish.
  • Grill your fish: Cooking your fish outside will prevent the fishy smell from entering your house.

No matter what you do, your house will have a little hint of fish smell after cooking with it. If you use the above methods, the smell should dissipate quickly.

Clean-Up and Lingering Fish Smells

Sometimes, you just have to have pan-seared cod, or you forget to store your leftovers in an airtight container, thus leaving your house with a fishy odor. There are some easy ways to help eliminate smell quickly.

Here are a few tips:

  • Air it out. Open the windows and turn on ceiling fans. The fresh air will help get rid of the smell.
  • Remove fish trimmings and discarded leftovers as soon as possible. If you plan on having fish for dinner, plan on taking the trash out that evening.
  • Mask the smell with a strongly scented candle.
  • Simmer citrus like lemons, grapefruit, or lime for about twenty minutes. This will absorb any lingering odors.
  • Tightly seal any leftovers, and do not leave them in the refrigerator for more than a day or two.


While one of the suggestions above may not be enough to prevent or completely eliminate the fish smell, a combination of them should do the trick. Lingering fish smells should diminish within 12-24 hours as long as the source of the smell has been removed from the house.

Fish can sometimes have a unique odor, the tips and tricks provided above should help remove any unwanted odors, leaving you to enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal worry-free.

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