I love to have fresh seafood once in a while. We try to make it a goal to eat it once per week, but let’s face it – fresh seafood, and even frozen seafood, can be pretty expensive. That said, if I’m going to pay for seafood, I want to make sure I’m getting the best quality possible. That means shopping locally for the freshest choices around.
Let’s face it. Very few of us actually live right on the coast. This means, contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, most of us aren’t walking to the fresh fish market each morning. Look around to figure out what your best options are. Is there a small fish-only market that drives a couple of hours to the shore each day? Is there a larger fish-market that imports fresh fish on a regular basis? Does your local grocery store carry fresh seafood? Do specialty grocery stores carry better varieties than your standard grocery? These are all things you’re going to have to take into consideration and you may want to buy the same thing from a couple of different places, over time, to compare quality and freshness.
Talk to the Fish Department Manager
Most grocery stores will not hire just anyone to run the fish department. The head of the fish department usually has a great working knowledge of the local market, which suppliers are the best to buy from, and which suppliers offer wild-caught vs. farm raised foods. The fish department manager will also be able to either cook or steam your foods for you, or will be able to tell you the proper way to cook your fish for safe eating.
Fresh or Frozen
Fresh does not mean frozen. Fresh fish should not be frozen. Once it’s frozen, it’s frozen. Period. Get it? If fish is frozen, ask how long it has been frozen and where it came from. If it’s labeled as fresh, try to find out if it’s been frozen before. This will ensure you a) know how fresh it is and b) know not to re-freeze it, which could make you ill if you try to thaw and cook it again later.
Checking the Fish
Before you make a purchase, check the fish. If it’s already cleaned and sliced, make sure it has a shiny flesh and the meat isn’t separating from itself. If the head is still on the eyes should be clear and should bulge out just a little bit. Also, fresh fish should never have a really strong “fishy” smell – that’s a sign it’s going bad.
Take it from me, finding fresh fish can be a lot of work. Sometimes I prefer to pick up the phone and have a local take-out or catering place deliver to me, already cleaned and cooked; you can find out more about services like that online. Sometimes, though, you just want to do it yourself – with fresh, wild fish you’ve prepared yourself. Either way, use caution – and enjoy!
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons