If seafood is one of your favorite varieties of food, youve no doubt had both good luck and bad luck when buying fish, either in the supermarket, from a fish monger, or at a restaurant. The fine art of buying seafood can be tricky and knowing a good fish from a bad fish is knowledge that may take some time to garner.
The fact remains, however, that seafood is immensely popular in North America, especially in areas that are close to the oceans and are accustomed to pulling fresh fish from the sea and eating it that night for dinner. Some of us, however, aren’t so lucky. We’re thousands of miles from the sea and a meal that features the catch-of-the-day.
So just how does one determine what’s good and what’s not in the world of seafood? Basically, consumers need to ask lots of questions about the fish they’re buying. Here are some guidelines to help you make a successful seafood purchase.
Selecting a Reputable Fish Market
Where do you buy your seafood? From the local supermarket? Perhaps, if you live a large city, you have a favorite market like Seattle’s Pike Place where you go to purchase fresh fish.
It’s easy to determine the reputability of a fish market merely by taking a look around and catching a whiff of the offerings. A good fish market, first of all, should always be clean. Counters should be constantly wiped and cases where the fish are displayed should be free of debris.
Notice how the market stores their fish. Does raw fish touch frozen fish? If so, there could be problems with contamination. Is the fish stored on ice? If so, check to see whether whole fish are partially buried in the ice and if pieces are sitting atop, as is preferred.
Ask how often the market purchases fish and how long what is displayed has been in the case. Inquire as to which fish is the freshest that day. Find out whether the market buys directly from suppliers or purchases pre-cut pieces from buyers.
Now stop and smell the market. Of course, it won’t smell like roses, but fresh fish shouldn’t have an overly ‘fishy’ smell. Good fish smells more like seawater than seafood. If the fishy smell is overwhelming, choose another market.
Other Signs of Freshness
While smell is the best indicator of freshness, there are other ways to determine if fish is fit for consumption.
- Flesh should be firm to the touch, not soft or mushy.
- Any exposed flesh should have a translucent appearance.
- Fish should have no brown spots, which are an indication of the beginning of decay.
- Generally, the fish should give the appearance that it’s still alive’ minus the wiggling, of course.
- Shellfish, like lobster and crab, should be purchased either alive or frozen. If your market has a lobster tank, ask how long they’ve been in the tank. Truly fresh lobsters should be lively and frisky.
- Oysters, clams, and mussels (the mollusk family) should be purchased while alive and should never be stored in a sealed plastic bag as they must breathe until they are ready for cooking.
What seafood you’ve developed a love for may depend on where you live. Residents of Maine, Nova Scotia, and other Atlantic Ocean locales love lobster. People in the Pacific Northwest have a penchant for salmon and halibut.
Some fish are not available in certain parts of the world while others are plentiful. Choosing what kind of seafood you’ll eat might also depend upon the recipe you wish to prepare.
Some of the most popular types of fish in North American include cod, tuna, shrimp, halibut, catfish, trout (rainbow or brook varieties), salmon, mahi mahi, flounder, red snapper, tilapia, and scallops.
If you’re searching for a mild fish, consider cod, tilapia, red snapper, flounder, rainbow trout, shrimp, scallops, or halibut for your recipes. Salmon, mahi mahi, swordfish, and tuna are among the most hearty and meaty fish, with a much stronger taste than the aforementioned varieties.
Many of these fish can be substituted for one another if you’re unable to find a specific type called for in a recipe. For example, flounder might replace cod or tuna can be used instead of salmon.
Health Benefits of Fish
Seafood besides being delicious when prepared properly also boasts a number of nutrients essential to the body’s good health. Basically, fish is both a low fat and high protein food. Diet programs, such as Weight Watchers ‘, suggest that individuals on their program consume fish at least 3 times a week, especially white fish, which is extremely low in fat. Fish also contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which are the ‘good fats’ that your body needs.
Consumers should be aware, however, of fish that have been placed on the list of ‘dangerous’ varieties, very possibly contaminated with mercury or PCBs. For example, bluefish, marlin, and Atlantic salmon currently appear on that list. Consult http://www.edf.org/ for a list of the ‘eco-worst’ seafood.