How To Buy Seafood And Ensure A Fresh Meal

20 06 2009

filletCooking seafood is the easy part! Buying the freshest ingredients can be challenging. When buying seafood, it’s important to use your senses.

Use Your Eyes: The flesh of the fish should be shiny, and the scales or skin should look vibrant. Seafood should not have discoloration. Often, you’ll see slight discoloration around the edges of the fillet. This is a sign of rotting, and should be avoided. Fillets should appear moist and freshly cut. Live shellfish should be closed. If they are open, they should close after being lightly tapped. When buying whole fish, the gills should be a bright pink or reddish color. There should be no dull colors in the gills. The eyes should also be clear and crisp, not dull.

Smell: Smell the seafood. This is the best way to tell freshness.  If there is a strong “fishy” smell, it is probably not good. Old shrimp smells like ammonia. Fresh seafood should have a pleasant aroma.

Touch It: The flesh should be firm, not soft or mushy.

After purchasing seafood, it is best to cook it the same day, although it should keep up to two or three days properly stored.

Fish that have been frozen at sea can be good alternatives to fresh products. Most grocery stores get their shrimp pre-frozen for example, so it is almost best to buy them frozen rather than thawed and sitting in the store. Understand when a seafood product is labeled “fresh” this just means it has never been frozen. And don’t be afraid to ask the fishmonger questions-like “when was the fish cut,” or “when did it come in.” A reputable vendor should be happy to answer your questions and sell you the fish that you want. I filleted and sold fish for five years and was always happy to give my best products to interested and informed customers.

(photo courtesy of pike place fish market)