Science is awesome and all, but sometimes, feigning ignorance is better for the appetite. Case in point: Cooking salmon often yields a torrent of mysterious white gunk. Baking, pan-frying, grilling, no matter how the delicious fish gets prepped, there's no way around it. And while some foodies will just dismiss it as fat, they'd be wrong. In fact, BuzzFeed explored the culinary phenomenon and discovered that the white goo is actually a soluble protein.
According to America's Test Kitchen's Feed blog, the white stuff is technically called albumin. Egg whites are often called albumen — note the spelling — but it's not the same thing. Egg whites do contain the protein albumin, however, just to add some confusion to the wide world of protein. "When the muscle fibers in the fish are heated, they contract, pushing the moisture-filled albumin to the surface of the flesh," the site explains.
Depending on how the salmon in question is being prepped, the albumin can appear foamy, gooey, or more liquid in texture. The good news is, there's no reason to get rid of it, other than the fact that it doesn't look so appetizing. If you've ever cooked salmon and ended up with a dry, unappealing dish, it's because the leaking albumin is literally the moisture coming out of the meat.
The good news is that minimizing albumin is definitely possible. To cook fish with the least amount of white stuff possible, try using a lower temperature. Overcooking the fish will push more of the albumin out, too, so keep an eye on the dish to ensure that it cooks to the desired level, but doesn't go beyond that. Also, brining the salmon before cooking can keep the moisture and albumin inside the meat. BuzzFeed recommends soaking the salmon in a 6% brine solution (1 tablespoon of salt dissolved in a cup of water, double or triple the amount as necessary to cover the fish) before cooking to keep the albumin in. Now that you know how to keep it in check, try out these great recipes — sans the white goo. Bon appétit!