Few foods can match the delicate texture, rich taste and pleasant aroma of seafood when it is first brought aboard a fishing vessel. Freshly caught seafood smells like a clean ocean breeze and its flesh is firm, moist and flavorful.
That fresh-caught flavor now is successfully captured for months in frozen and canned seafood products. Indeed, today's frozen seafood often is superior in quality to fresh products; modern processing vessels can freeze a fish only hours after harvest, while it might take many days for the same fish to reach the market as "fresh."
The attitudes of all-too-many customers toward seafood were shaped by an era preceding jet transportation, refrigeration, and instant communications. Despite the growing interest in seafood, many consumers hesitate to make their first retail purchase, believing that seafood is difficult to buy and prepare.
Let's try to figure out how to choose the right fish and what to look for when buying it. Here are some tips how to choose the best quality fish.
How to evaluate the quality of fresh fish
In evaluating fresh seafood, beauty truly is in the eye and nose of the beholder. Let your senses be your guide to selecting high-quality fresh seafood. The only instruments needed to measure quality are your eyes, hands, and nose.
These general guidelines for judging fresh seafood quality apply to most products. Base your determination of seafood quality on a combination of these factors; if a seafood passes most of the tests it probably is a good quality product.
- Quality fresh fish should smell sea-fresh. Strong or objectionable odors signal quality problems.
- The flesh of whole, fresh fish should feel firm and slightly springy or resilient. Some flatfishes, notably sole and arrow tooth flounder, naturally have softer flesh.
- The gills of most finfish should be reddish in color. Gray, dull brown or white colored gills indicate quality problems.
- The eyes should be bright and clear. Sunken or cloudy eyes may be a clue that quality has begun to deteriorate. This rule does not always apply to small-eyed fish such as salmon.
- Whole fish should have a bright and shiny appearance, and most of the scales should be intact. The scales should adhere tightly to the skin.
- Fillets and steaks should appear moist, firm and freshly cut. The flesh should be almost translucent so it seems as if you are looking into the flesh. There should be little evidence of bruising or reddening of the flesh from retention of blood.
- Pre-packaged steaks and fillets should contain a minimum of liquid. Seafood stored in liquid deteriorates quickly
What to look for when selecting a fish at the store:
- Frozen products should be stored in sealed packaging, or must be protected from oxygen supply or by means of ice glazing or vacuum packaging.
- Fresh fish and seafood should lie on the ice.
- There should be no bruises or dents, which indicate improper handling of fresh fish and seafood.
- Always take a fresh whole fish, steaks, and fillets with both hands. A fish under their own weight division spinal vertebrae can occur in an upright position and can break the main artery, which may still contain blood, despite the fact that the fish may have already been gutted.
- Pay attention to the "fishy" smell in the store, as a rule, it says that there was insufficient sanitary and hygienic measures.
Buying fish pay attention at:
- Frozen seafood should not be exposed to oxygen.
- Frozen products should be held in airtight containers or be shielded from oxygen by protective coverings such as water glaze or vacuum packaging.
- Hold fresh fish on ice, cover or mist seafood periodically with an atomizer of cold water.
- Bruises and punctures hasten spoilage.
- Always use two hands when lifting fresh whole fish, steaks and fillets. Do not pick up a whole fish by the tail as this separates the vertebrae in the backbone and allows blood to ooze into the flesh.
- If your shop has unpleasant "fishy" odors, it usually means there's a gap in your sanitation efforts.