You chose an especially promising salmon filet from the supermarket, marinated it for hours, popped it into the oven, and are moments from serving up an applause-worthy meal when you realize the main event is now covered in questionable white sludge.
Before you throw in the towel and order a pizza, you should know that the white stuff won’t hurt you. As Food Network explains, it’s albumin, a protein found in salmon and other organisms. (Humans have it, too—it’s produced in the liver and cycled through the bloodstream in plasma.) Back when your raw salmon looked so promising, the albumin was still inside the fish in liquid form. While cooking, it then seeped out and coagulated into a very visible solid. Though the appearance and texture of albumin might make you decide to scrape it off, you can definitely eat it.
It’s generally agreed that overcooking your salmon often causes more albumin to collect on the surface. But even if you take it off the heat at the perfect temperature—which, according to Reader’s Digest, is 125°F, though the FDA advises 145°F—there’s still a good chance you’ll see some albumin. Cook’s Illustrated has a different solution (literally): brine.
“Just 10 minutes in our standard 9 percent solution (1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water) is enough to minimize the effect,” Cook’s explained. “The salt partially dissolves the muscle fibers near the surface of the flesh, so that when cooked they congeal without contracting and squeezing out albumin.”
And since you’d probably be salting your fish anyway, the brining method kills two birds with one stone.
[h/t Food Network]