Buying and Handling Fresh Seafood
Buying Fresh Seafood
It can be tricky for the uninitiated to tell the difference between fresh seafood and old seafood but there are two major factors to help determine freshness: aroma and appearance. These key indicators act as a guide for healthy fish that has been properly handled.
Regardless of the cut, fresh seafood should never have a strong “fishy” smell. The aroma should be pleasant and reminiscent of a light sea breeze like seaweed (saltwater fish) or the scent of waterweeds (freshwater fish).
- Look for eyes that are slightly bulging and clear.
- The skin should be firm, shiny and moist looking.
- Look at the gills – they should be a nice rosy red color.
- The color should be bright, not dull or discolored.
Seafood, like other raw meats, needs to be handled safely to preserve quality, freshness and prevent cross contamination. One of the most important handling tips is to keep the fish or shellfish chilled from the market to your home. Purchase seafood last and come prepared by bringing a cooler or bag with ice packs to maintain the cool temperature of the seafood. As soon as possible, place it in the coldest section of the refrigerated (in the back, on the top or bottom shelf).
Always wash your hands and never allow cutting boards, knives or other utensils used in preparing your raw fish to come in contact with any cooked item. Thoroughly wash your hands and all utensils when finished.
Sushi seafood is a particular grade of fish meant to be eaten raw. If you plan to make sushi, please let your fishmonger know and they will steer you in the right direction.
Ideally, seafood should be bought and prepared on the same day though it can be kept for two days if properly stored.
Ideal refrigerator temperature should be between 34° and 40°F
- Store in a ventilated container
- Don’t store in water
- Discard shellfish if:
- Shells don’t open after cooking
- Shells are broken
- Legs aren’t moving
- Store 1-3 days in the refrigerator (40° F).
- Remove packing and rinse with very cold water then pat dry with a paper towel. Then place the fresh fish on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and place on the bottom shelf in the back of the refrigerator.
Freezing and Thawing
Rinse and dry your fish before freezing to ensure minimal surface contamination and excess moisture.
- Don’t freeze whole fish; cut into fillets/steaks about 1” to 2” thick.
- Seal in a freezer zip lock bag and be sure to label and date it; don’t vacuum-pack as this can trap any anaerobic bacteria present.
- Oily fish (salmon, sable): 3-6 months
- Lean fish (flounder, tilapia): 10-12 months
- Thaw in the refrigerator overnight (12-24 hours)
- Thaw under cold running water in its packaging or in a zip lock bag because seafood absorbs moisture.
- Never thaw at room temperature or under warm/hot water as this can encourage bacteria growth.