Why does your lobster tail smell like fish?


Lobster is a popular seafood delicacy, but sometimes the tail may have a fishy odor, even though it is not a fish. This can be off-putting to some people, and it may raise concerns about the freshness and quality of the lobster. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why lobster tails can smell like fish and what you can do to prevent or minimize this odor.

The biology of lobsters

Lobsters are crustaceans that live in the ocean and have a hard, protective exoskeleton. They are scavengers that feed on a variety of prey, including fish and other marine animals. Lobster tails are considered a delicacy because they are meaty and flavorful. The tail meat is located between the carapace and the abdomen and can be cooked in a variety of ways, including boiled, grilled, or broiled.

The chemistry of odor

Odor is a complex mixture of chemical compounds that can be detected by the senses. Fishy odor is caused by a group of chemical compounds called volatile amines, which are produced as a byproduct of the breakdown of proteins in seafood. The most common volatile amines in fish are trimethylamine (TMA) and dimethylamine (DMA). These compounds are responsible for the strong, pungent odor that is associated with fish.

Why does fish smell like fish?

Fishy odor is a natural characteristic of fish and other seafood. It is caused by the presence of volatile amines, which are produced by bacteria that break down the proteins in the fish. The odor can vary depending on the species of fish, the freshness of the fish, and the way it is handled and prepared.

How lobster tails acquire odor

The smell of fish on lobster tails can be caused by a variety of factors. One possible reason is that lobsters feed on fish and other marine animals, so their bodies may contain some of the same volatile amines that are found in fish. Another reason is that lobster tails are often stored and transported with other seafood, which can cause cross-contamination of odors.

Storage and handling practices

Proper storage and handling practices can help prevent or minimize fishy odor on lobster tails. Lobster tails should be kept refrigerated or frozen until ready to use. They should be stored in a sealed container or bag to prevent odor absorption from other foods. When handling lobster tails, it’s important to avoid touching them with bare hands, as this can transfer bacteria and other contaminants that can cause odor.

Cooking methods and odor

The way lobster tails are cooked can also affect the odor. Boiling, steaming, or poaching lobster tails can cause them to release some of their natural juices, which can mix with the cooking liquid and create an odor. Grilling, broiling, or baking lobster tails can help reduce the odor by searing the meat and locking in the flavor.

How to get rid of fishy smell

If your lobster tail has a strong fishy odor, there are a few things you can do to reduce or eliminate it. You can soak the tails in cold water for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking, which can help remove some of the volatile amines. You can also add lemon juice or vinegar to the soaking water, which can neutralize the odor. Another option is to marinate the tails in a mixture of herbs, spices, and citrus juices, which can help mask the odor.


Lobster tails can sometimes have a fishy odor, but this is a natural characteristic of seafood. By following proper storage, handling, and cooking practices, you can minimize or eliminate the odor and enjoy the delicious flavor of lobster meat. If you’re not sure about the freshness or quality of your lobster tails, it’s always best to consult a seafood expert and err on the side of caution.

References and further reading

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