A Complete Beginner's Guide to Buying High Quality Seafood That Tastes Great from North Carolina Lifestyle Blogger Champagne Style Bare Budget

If you asked anyone what their favorite dish is, it’s not likely to be seafood. Seafood tends to get a bad wrap because of the smell and how long it can take to prepare. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. FIsh and seafood are some of the richest sources of protein without a lot of unnecessary fat, so you’re getting quite lean meat.

But not everyone knows what to look for when they’re interested in buying seafood to cook at home. Instead of leaving it up to chance, here’s a great way to figure out how to choose the best fish and seafood that are guaranteed to taste great.

Fresh Versus Frozen

It’s important to first state that poor quality seafood or fish is not going to get you anywhere. No matter how skilled you are with cooking seafood or how much seasoning you use, people are going to be able to tell that it’s not good quality meat. With that out of the way, there’s always been the debate as to whether it’s better to go with fresh or frozen.

And the answer is that it depends on what you’re getting. Some seafood, like lobsters, does not travel well unless they are frozen so unless you live right by a pier where you’re catching fresh lobsters and bringing them directly to your kitchen, nothing is wrong with getting frozen lobsters. Fresh fish or frozen, it’s really up to how. But any “fresh” fish has been transported from the water to the shore in an icebox of some kind, so they’re still technically frozen. Look for fish that is labeled “Frozen At Sea.”

What you should check for is the smell of the seafood you’re getting. If it smells off or pungent, then it’s gone bad and you shouldn’t buy it. Even fresh fish is going to have a smell of some kind, but it should be a “clean” fish smell, not like ammonia. Either way, fish is better for you than other sources of meat.

Avoid Endangered Fish At All Costs

You may think that the more exotic the fish, the tastier it will be. However, there’s a good reason that some fish just aren’t available for human consumption and that’s because they’re endangered. That means that the populations of these fish are pretty low, and you don’t want to make them any lower, so refrain from buying or catching fish that are protected. Two of the most delicious fish in the world, the Bluefin tuna, and the red snapper are on the endangered list.

How Fish is Harvested

The USDA requires that all fish and seafood are labeled to identify how they were caught or raised so that people can make informed decisions on the kind of meat they’re getting. Here are the different kinds of harvest methods:

  • Line- and net-caught: hooks and lines are used, like those in recreational fishing, or nets can be used in trolling. The former is generally a more approved method, as the quality of fish tends to be higher.
  • Farmed: also known as aquaculture, fish are raised in closed ocean pens or freshwater ponds so that the populations can be expanded enough to create steady supplies of seafood and fish. Aquaculture does reduce the strain on fish species being over-fished, but there is the risk of contaminants getting into the pens and reducing the health benefits of these fish when ingested.

Which choice you make is an entirely personal one, as each method has its own pros and cons.

Finding the Right Fish Market

You may have to look beyond your own supermarket to find a place that provides good quality fish. Shopping around will not only get you the best prices, but you’ll also find the freshest fish. Look for a fish market that has knowledgable salespeople, is kept clean, and has their fish on display in crushed ice so that you know that it’s fresh.

To make it easier for yourself, you could check out a few online fish markets like Citarella.

Be Flexible With Your Choices

Although it can be easy to narrow down your choice to one particular fish, don’t make it be your only choice. You want to have a variety to choose from so that you’re only choosing the freshest fish. Having a variety also helps the fish market keep a variety in their stock. One kins of fish can always be substituted for another, except between salt and freshwater fish. Go for local fish as well, as that supports the fishermen in your area, as this will keep the price down while the quality of fish goes up.

Also, don’t be afraid to go for the whole fish. Fillets can get rid of a lot of the labor, but they tend to shrink when cooking. Choosing a whole fish will give you more price per pound. It’s not that hard to learn how to remove the bones either, or you can actually cook some fish with the bones still in. Just eat carefully once the preparation is done.

What To Look For When Buying Fish

Depending on the fish you’re getting, there are different signs you should definitely look for to ensure that you’re actually getting fresh:

  • Whole fish: the skin should be shiny with tight scales. The eyes should be firm, and the flesh should spring back when pressed. The tail should be moist and flat. Around the gills, there should be a bright red color. Ocean fish should smell a little like brine, while freshwater fish should smell like a clean pond.
  • Fillets: fresh fillets should look a little translucent with a pinkish tint. The layers shouldn’t have any gaps between them, and if the fillets are wrapped in plastic, there should be no liquid inside.
  • Frozen: fresh frozen fish should be rock hard and have no spots of freezer burn. If it does, it’s been in the freezer too long and isn’t going to be any good. It’s best to go for packages that are at the bottom of the freezer to ensure freshness; they shouldn’t be more than 3 months old.

It can be a lot to keep track of, but buying fish more frequently will teach you to notice these signs more easily.

High-quality seafood is not only going to improve your diet but will also add some variety to your meals. Fish is proven to be leaner meat, and although there are some health hazards associated with each too much fish on a regular basis, such as mercury poisoning, it’s definitely healthier for you than eating a steak every day.

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