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After reading this question regarding how to make a Cantonese fish soup I was considering adding an answer expounding on the fact that fish stock shouldn't be left simmering for too long, or you'll get a "glue flavor" in your soup because of bad tasting compounds being released from the fish trimmings.

However, upon googling for some sources to validate my claim I came upon this article, which among other things claims that

If no flat-fish bones are used, the stock can cook for four to six hours; this slow cooking extracts all the gelatin from the bones and makes a wonderful, rich broth.

Is it correct that it is only certain kinds of fish / fish trimmings which will create a bad tasting stock if left to simmer for too long? If so, are there any other kinds of fish than flat-fish which can create this bad taste?

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I'm not sure about a glue flavor (I kicked the habit in kindergarten ), but I made a stock with king mackerel bits, including the head and tail fin and it made an amazing base for gumbo. Be prepared for the smell to linger a bit though.

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I always try to simmer my stock for a long period of time and have never gotten a bad taste. I have never heard about the "glue" taste but the broth that is extracted from the bones is a very tasty broth just like bone broth from meat.

  • Carol, welcome! Please note that we explicitly don't discuss health here, so I had to edit your answer a bit. Let me point you to our tour and help center for more info on how this site works. Again: Welcome! – Stephie Mar 27 '16 at 14:53
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I am a European trained chef. This is a very interesting question and there are quite a few answers. In my opinion and experience, the simmer time of a good fish stock is 100% based on the type of fish bones that you are developing the stock with. I remember asking the question many times on my travels through Europe and North Africa. I will share my preferred methods for a few species of fish.

  1. Turbot, 20 minutes after it comes to the boil, bay leaf only in the stock.
  2. Dover Sole, a full mirapoix, simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Salmon, bring to boil and shut off, a full mirapoix is needed
  4. Northern Hake, 45 minutes full mirapoix
  5. John Dory, 45 minutes full mirapoix, white wine may be added if desired.

I hope that helps you out. Regards.

Michael

  • Thanks - I don't suppose you can provide a source for any of those recommendations, besides your own experience? – eirikdaude Mar 30 '16 at 5:16
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    Michael, being a classically trained chef perhaps you could also add to your answer what effects the longer period of simmering will have on the fish stocks. Should you pull the bones out after the 20-30-45 minutes and continue to reduce? Also what is a full mirapoix? I never heard of a partial one, so what makes one a full one, just have the complete set of chopped/diced veg? – Escoce Mar 30 '16 at 13:07
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From experience I cannot say because I never simmer stock beyond 20 minutes.

I follow this rule because nearly every master chef(no not the television show) I've read says so. Michel Roux states that in his book Sauces. And James Peterson, a former chemist, states it in his book Sauces, and he teaches at the French Culinary Institute.

Michel Roux makes the statement that for certain bones, less time is better.

Jennifer McLagan, in her book Bones, only states that flat fish bones are preferable because of their higher level of gelatin. As regards to time, she only states that fish bones "yield their essence quickly."

One would think that James Peterson would have commented on the chemistry of this, but he doesn't, despite talking at length of the various chemicals released when making veal and beef broth.

If Jennifer's comment on the issue gives us any clue, it would lead us to hypothesize that because fish bones yield their essence rather quickly, they must be delicate and probably burn or change after those 30 to 40 minutes of continuous heat.

We do know that stocks expire, so we might conclude that fish stocks are more susceptible to time and also to heat.

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