Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Why Does Fish Flake?

Why Does Fish Flake?

{♫Intro♫} Whether you like it in your tacos, fried with
chips, or on top of rice, fish can be delicious. But if you’ve ever eaten it, you probably
noticed how flaky fish can be. Poke at it with your fork and it just falls
apart — no knife required. Other meats, like beef or pork, don’t break
up into those little chunks, either. It turns out that the same muscle physiology
that helps fish get around underwater ultimately means better tacos for us. Fish bodies are ridiculously muscular compared
to land animals. Cows may look like tanks made of beef, but muscle makes up less than half of their
body mass, while in salmon or tuna it can be over 60%. And almost all of that is fast-twitch muscle,
which is exactly what it sounds like: muscle that contracts quickly and forcefully. That’s a pretty handy adaptation if you
need to quickly swim away from predators. In contrast, land mammals tend to have a much
larger proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers to support their bodies during hours of standing
and grazing. But even when land animal tissues have lots
of fast-twitch muscle — like a turkey breast — it doesn’t flake
like salmon. It shreds. That’s because land animals organize their
muscle fibers into fascicles, long bundles wrapped in connective tissue. Fish instead have overlapping layers called
myomeres, W-shaped segments that interlock with each
other and allow the fish to bend its whole body side to side as it
swims. It’s these layers that create the chunks
that break apart when you poke them with a fork. Myomeres are wrapped up a bit differently,
too. All animal muscle contains some connective
tissue called collagen, but bite for bite, fish meat has less collagen
than its bovine counterparts. Collagen binds myomeres together, and you
can sometimes see it as white stripes in a cut of fish. Fish collagen also breaks down at a much lower
temperature, compared to that of land animals, due to different
amounts of an amino acid called hydroxyproline. This is fine when the fish are in their comparatively
chilly habitat, but makes a big difference in your frying
pan. All that collagen becomes gelatinous when
heated, which causes it fall apart more easily. So, not only is fish muscle organized into
chunks on the animal, but the connective tissue it’s wrapped in
disintegrates more easily before it gets to our forks. If all this makes you look at fish a little
differently, allow me to recommend the fried version. You can’t see the flakes and it goes great
with sriracha. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow, and a huge thanks to our President of Space
Matthew Brant for your support. If you’re interested in joining our community
of patrons and maybe becoming the next President of Space,
check out {♫Outro♫}

100 comments on “Why Does Fish Flake?

  1. And here I am, with a grand total of 55% muscle mass and before a hormone therapy far more , up to nearly 80% muscle mass total.
    Ok, I was athletic and did various kinds of sports but holy cow! I had more % of muscle than a cow!🤯🐮

  2. Fish tacos are an abomination, and may the sea rise up and claim them with the rest of SoCal when the San Andreas Fault finally gives.

  3. You guys should sell merch, I want a SCI SHOW hoody. Seriously, I really want a hoody with your logo on it. Great video to btw. Now I look at fish as being more delicious. Love me some baked salmon with lemon and herbs.

  4. Pretty sure it's the flaking of fish that makes it the only meat I like. I can't stand the texture of land meat. The tender, flakey 'fall apartness' of fish makes it much more enjoyable to eat.

  5. Fish flake because they're not reliable friends. Never count on a fish to pick you up from the airport at 2am.

  6. I'm guessing that fish muscle needs less collagen to bind it, since it's living under the smooth, yielding and nearly equalized pressure of surrounding water, while land animals operate upon hard earth, surrounded by physically unsupporting air.

  7. This left me wondering if whale and dolphin meat shreds because they're a mammal or flakes because they've adapted to an aquatic life.

  8. random guy eating beef: eating
    indian: "hey you're not allowed to do that"
    random guy: "what..?"
    (true story)

  9. well, food fish SHOULD flake, bone head!!!
    If the fish on your plate doesn't flake it's either overcooked or undercooked.
    It's either dry and unappetizing or just yucky.unless it's sushi.
    Flaky fish is moist, tender and full of taste. Tip from the coach.

  10. Before watching the video, I'm going to guess it has to do with fish living in water, a naturally wet environment vs mammals and poultry living on the ground were it's dry. So fish don't need to store as much water because it's all around them but a cow, pig, or goose needs to lock moisture in otherwise it would lose it and die.

  11. "It's these layers". Hold on a minute….
    Fish have layers.
    Onions have layers.
    Ogres have layers.
    Fish are Ogres 😮

  12. …And also is the reason why slow cooked pork can be turned into delicious pulled pork … giving it all the time at low heat to turn what it was holding together into gelatin

  13. Fellow wannabe pescatarian here. (My parents force me to eat chicken and cow idk I just prefer fish, I just find cow distasteful sometimes.)

  14. I had to google "fish myomere" to understand what scale we were talking about XD

    > It's these

  15. Huh, but if meat "shredds" it's not necesserily fast twitch muscles is it? Because a beef fillet doesn't seem like it would be fast twitch to me but it usually is so tender it just falls appart with little use of a knife, whihc i asume you meant when saying shred?

  16. Odd ending. If you watch Alton Brown he explains how broken down collagen is delicious. It's what makes pot roast taste so good.

  17. Had a little laugh picturing land animals sitting around organizing their muscle fibers… "Hey, Gladys, as soon as you're done with the socks give me a hand with these muscle fibers…"

  18. We should probably ditch cows for fish farming, looks like more food per unit of volume, and probably even co2 emissions would be lower.

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