Salting fish ahead of time - my mistake!

I’ve gotten into the habit of salting meat ahead of cooking it and letting it sit in the refrig for several hours. Always works fine. Yesterday, I must have been on autopilot and I salted some cod fillets and let them sit in the refrig for about 4 hours. When I cooked them using my usual 10 minutes at 450, they had a kind of dry and chewy texture, also sort of tasteless despite a butter, lemon, and sliced almond topping. They were from Whole foods, and I’ve always enjoyed their seafood and meat.
It occurred to me today that my pre-salting was what I did wrong. Is that the case? I googled it and saw that pre-salting isn’t recommended for fish. Ooops! Guess I’ll need to pay more attention next time. Any HO thoughts on this?

It kind of depends on the fish and the prep style. Salting well ahead of time is the norm for yakizakana, but that’s for really oily fish like mackerel.


I presalt farmed salmon, usually about 8 hours, every week. A broiled preparation. It has not been a problem, and I think it is a good thing.


Cod is a pretty dry flaky fish to begin with.

By salting it so long, you’ve drawn out even more moisture, which generally will make meat firmer and dryer (a good thing for most times you are trying to create a maillard effect like crust or char on a steak) but in the case of a dry flaky fish like cod it will make it, as you say, dry and a bit chewy.


As others have said, salting fish will firm it up (and remove moisture). This is great with most frozen fish that can be soggy (especially salmon and pollack). For fresh (and dryer fish like cod and swordfish, even halibut) consider a marinade from soy, citrus, spices and aromatics to add flavor… but four hours is way too long.

Here is one of my favs for fresh swordfish.

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Pre-salting soft fish (cod, rockfish) does improve texture. 15 minutes should be adequate, and no longer than 30 minutes. Rinse well and dry before proceeding to cook.

Judy Rogers recommends pre salting fish. She wrote a cookbook which explains why she does what she does, she used to own a restaurant. Many of her recipes are available on the internet.


Theres pre-salting.

And then theres salting for 4 hours

I don’t think people who use the term “pre salting” meant 4 hours

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In the cookbook she talks about salting when she gets home from grocery shopping.

But on page 37 she says “when I preseason fish, it is for a few hours at most”. She says lots more of course, including why fish is different.

I have usually pre salted my salmon in the late morning for broiling in the late evening, for convenience, but maybe i will be more mindful in the future.


I have never pre salted fish in my lifetime. I grew up on the coast . My family ate fresh fish that was caught by my father.
Maybe , probably not i would salt my fish for more than a minute before going into the pan .Now if bought from rhe supermarket. I thinly coat with. Mayonnaise.


Rub it in, guys. :grinning: You can be sure I’ll never do this again!


give yourself a good sized break. I salt really fresh fish (local fishmonger available) routinely.
salmon, flounder, rockfish/stripers, steelhead, boneless rainbow, , , ,

1-2 hours typical, 4 hrs not likely in my routines.

now, this is really fresh fish - not previously frozen supermarket stuff.
looks like:


We used to salt cod in one restaurant I worked in to firm up the texture. It was moist and delicious. One of my favorite cod preparations. Perhaps you had too much salt for too long. Plus you did a high heat prep for them. I’d go with braising it after that. In fact that’s how ours was prepared— braised with a good amount of butter.

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I think thickness plays a role. I routinely salt king salmon filets overnight at a level that wouldn’t work for smaller/thinner fish.

I think a very short brine bath benefits a lot of fish. Just do it shortly before cooking, and rinse and dry thoroughly.