Making The Right Selection At The Fish Counter

Whether fresh or frozen, you should choose your fish carefully.
Whether fresh or frozen, you should choose your fish carefully.

Selecting fish can be an intimidating part of your trip to the grocery store, even for those enrolled in culinary courses online. Often you’ll find a wide variety with little indication of what is freshest or the best choice for a dish you are interested in preparing. The next time you feel a craving for seafood, use the tips below to guide you :

Picking a fresh fish
Become a savvier fish consumer by knowing which are commonly available in nearby stores and what times of year they are most plentiful. Take advantage of the lower prices by adapting your purchasing choices and recipes accordingly.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your fishmonger. Ask questions, like which fish have come in over the past day or two. As Real Simple points out, talking to the seller is especially important if you are concerned about sustainability and want to know more about the conditions under which the fish were caught.

Avoid fish that have been sitting in the market any longer than two days, and always carefully inspect your options before you take anything home. Whole fish should have clear eyes, pink gills and shiny, taut skin. Fresh fillets or steaks should be shiny as well. Look out for gaps in the layers of muscle. Sniff the fish as part of your inspection process. Fresh fish will smell like the water where they were caught, whether salty or fresh. An ammonia scent indicates decomposition.

Keep in mind that it is easy to substitute one type of fish for another, similar variety. Prioritize freshness over obtaining a specific fish. Cooking Light keeping in mind five basic kinds of fish to guide such decisions:

  • Some white fish are lean and firm, such as catfish and Pacific cod or halibut.
  • Other white fish are lean and flaky, like flounder, red snapper or rainbow trout.
  • White fish can also be firm and oily, as in albacore and lake whitefish or trout.
  • Medium color, oil-rich fish include yellowfin tuna, paddlefish or amberjack.
  • Finally, there are dark and oily fish, such as anchovies, salmon or sardines.

Buying frozen fish
You might assume that frozen fish is necessarily inferior to fresh fish, but this is not always the case. Especially if the fresh fish you want are not local to your area, frozen might be the better choice.

Fish labeled “Frozen at Sea” were flash-frozen aboard the fishing vessel immediately after being caught. When thawed, these are functionally no different from fresh fish, preserving both nutrients and flavor.

Philadelphia chef and author Aliza Green is one culinary professional who believes there is nothing wrong with purchasing frozen fish.

“If you had asked me in the ’70s and ’80s, when I first started out as a chef, I would have said ‘only buy fresh fish,'” she told The Washington Post. “But I have really changed my mind. The freezing technology is so much better now.”

Epicurious offered a few hints to ensure you make the right call when picking frozen fish. First, make sure the fish is frozen solid. Watch out for any liquid inside the package, as this means the fish has partially thawed. Check for any damage to the packaging, frost  inside the package or freezer burn.

If you’re considering fish that has been allowed to thaw and refrigerated at the store, inspect it carefully: Look at the fish’s color, make sure the edges are not peeling apart and watch out for drying.

Frozen fish can keep for as long as a year, as long as it’s stored in a freezer set at a temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower. When you plan to eat the fish, place it in the refrigerator to thaw. Fillets or smaller individual pieces should take around six hours. Allow a whole fish to thaw overnight.


Comments are closed.