Fish and seafood can be a delicious addition to a healthy diet. The key to great tasting fish and seafood preparations is to start with fresh ingredients. At San Diego restaurants specializing in seafood, the chefs hand select the freshest fish daily to serve hungry patrons, but most people don’t have same expertise when selecting a catch of the day. Here are some easy tips to make sure you get the freshest catches at the fish counter or seafood market.
If you are buying whole fish you should visually inspect the fish before you handle any of them. The skin of the fish should look shiny, and the scales should should be tight to the body of the fish. Next you should look at the eyes. They should be crystal clear, and and unclouded, with no signs of sinking in. If the fish passes the visual inspection, you can proceed to handling it.
The flesh should be firm and should bounce back when you press it. The gills should be pink, with no mucus present. Check to make sure that there is no browning around the belly of the fish. The belly should be taut, not swollen or sunken. A distended or shriveled belly indicates that the digestive enzymes from the fish’s gut have broken down and digested some of the flesh.
It is also important to note that fresh fish doesn not have a distinct fishy odor, so make sure that the fish you are selecting has just a mild ocean smell.
Fillets and Steaks
Ideally, fish fillets should be cut to order from a whole fish, as the increased surface area exposed to air and oxygen will speed up decay, oxidation, and the onset of a malodorous fishy aroma. Sometimes this is not the case however, so you should take proper care to inspect the cuts carefully before buying.
When selecting fillets and steaks, you should check to make sure that it meets the same standards as whole fish. The flesh should be translucent. The surface of the fish should not be sticky. The skin should be bright with no discoloration. It is also important to make sure there is no milky substance or browning on the edges of the meat. As with whole fish, filets and other cuts should have a mild ocean smell, never a strong fishy odor.
When buying shrimp, you should take proper care to make sure that they are the freshest you can find. The meat should be firm, and the legs of the animal intact. There should be no browning or blackening on the edges and no other visible discolorations. Again, you want to make sure that the shrimp do not smell like the bottom of a chum barrel, as they too should smell like ocean water.
Crawfish, Lobster, and Crabs
When selecting crustaceans such as these, you should only select live ones. Sometimes crawfish are sold in net sacs, so it is important to make sure you throw out any dead ones.
Ideally, you should buy lobster from a lobster pound or a seafood market that has lobsters delivered daily. Lobsters should be lively, and active, with claws intact.
When selecting crab, the legs should be moving and whole. There should be no cracks in the body, claws, or edible legs. As with a the other items on this list, crustaceans should not have a pungent odor.
Oysters, Clams and Mussels
These types of shellfish should be bought live. Live shellfish will be tightly closed. You should also check to make sure that there are no cracks in the shells. As with other seafood, they should not have an offensive smell.
Visually inspect the scallops for color. They should be ivory, light pink or white with no evidence of browning or other discoloration. Scallops should be firm to the touch, with a slight sweet smell. If they have a sour smell, it means they are spoiled.
When inspecting squid for purchase, you should make sure that the eyes are clear, without any clouding. The meat should be firm, and the skin should be free of tears. Squid has a mild scent, but should smell more like seawater than fish.
Transporting and Storing Fresh Fish
Fish and seafood must be kept cold. By restaurant standards, seafood should be kept kept under refrigeration or on ice to keep the internal temperature below 40° Fahrenheit. Any warmer and the fish will start to break down and decompose more quickly.
By keeping fish cold, you can prevent potentially harmful bacteria from breeding, meaning less chance of you or someone in your family falling ill from food poisoning.
Fish and seafood are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, and have been found to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Adding fresh fish to your diet can be a great health decision, but seafood is so delicious that you won’t mind eating healthy. What are your favorite fish and seafood options? Leave us a comment in the section below.