Starting with the best ingredients is the first step in preparing outstanding meals, and if you want to prepare the best fish or shellfish, it means starting with fresh seafood. But don't worry if you're not sure what that includes or how to go about it—this seafood buying guide from Fish Me will lead you through everything you need to know to get started buying fresh seafood.
Many individuals are afraid or perplexed by learning how to buy seafood, but the most essential thing to remember is that it is perfectly acceptable to ask questions! Consider the fishmonger behind the counter or on the phone as your own seafood buyer's guide, and don't be shy about asking for assistance.
Frozen vs. Fresh vs. Live
Fresh seafood vocabulary can be complex, and it can even vary based on the type of seafood you're talking about. There are a few distinct forms of freshness to be aware of, as well as how to identify if the seafood is fresh:
The freshest clams, mussels, oysters, and other shellfish are sold live; most bivalves, as well as crab, should be purchased either live or cooked (which includes tinned, smoked, or steamed). When handled, bivalves should be tightly closed or close, while crabs and lobsters should be active and responsive.
Talking about sustainability is one of the most difficult aspects of putting up a seafood buying guide: it varies frequently and is often specific to each type of seafood, where it originates from, and how it was caught. The Marine Stewardship Council or the Monterey Bay Aquarium are fantastic places to start, but good fishmongers frequently have more up-to-date or specific expertise. If you want to buy fish that is sustainable, make sure you ask questions before you buy.
Examine the gills
The gills are the finest visible portion of a fish to determine its freshness when buying entire fish. The gills of a healthy, fresh fish should be pink, crimson, or purple. Any fish with brown, grey, or black gills should be avoided. Your helpful fishmonger will be able to demonstrate the gills and assist you in choosing the best fish.
Examine the shells
When choosing crustaceans, go for ones with the firmest shells possible, since the meat within is in better shape than those with softer shells. Crustaceans shed their shells and go through a regeneration phase, which lowers the meat's quality and flavour. Soft shells are ideally deep-fried and can be eaten whole.
The difference in how long you should keep live mussels (a few days) and live oysters (more than a week) is significant. A salmon with its head on will not last as long as one with just the body. If you're buying fresh seafood for a certain meal—or meals—consider how long you'll have to wait before cooking it and factor that into your purchase.
Examine your physical appearance
Fresh fish and seafood should have a bright, shiny appearance. There should be no discoloration or bruising when buying fish fillets and cutlets. Look for vividly colored, shiny shells or flesh with minimal discoloration around the joints when buying crustaceans and mollusks. All shells, heads, and tentacles should be in good condition.
Ignore the cloudiness in your eyes.
When it comes to picking seafood, foggy eyes are frequently mistaken for a red warning. Even something as innocuous as melting ice might create cloudy eyes. Examine the eyes for fullness and firmness; this will give you a better idea of freshness.
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