Finding the perfect cut of fresh fish can be intimidating. It can be expensive, there are a lot of choices, a lot of cuts, and you typically need to speak with the fishmonger (the person selling the fish) in order to get what you need.
In this post I want to help relieve some of that nervousness with my fresh fish buying guide so you get exactly what you need when fish is on the menu. I want you to be able to pick and purchase your fish with confidence!
Not All Fish is Created Equal.
Unfortunately not all fish markets or seafood departments at your local grocery store carry the same quality of seafood. Fish and shellfish are our most perishable foods, so it’s very important to choose a high quality market where you know that the fish is handled and stored safely.
The way to know if you’re at the right place is to let your senses take over. The moment you walk up to the counter, you should be hit with a fragrant, almost sweet smell. Of course, it should smell like fish, but you don’t want the smell to be overpowering or fishy. If you’ve ever smelt old fish, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The display case should be clean with beautifully displayed fish that shines like a jewel, nestled in a bed of shaved ice. If the fish is dull in color, piled on top of one another, or have milky and sunken eyes…RUN! These are all signs of old and unsafe fish and I don’t want you getting sick.
The best resource at a top-notch seafood counter is a knowledgeable fishmonger with skilled fish butchery expertise. The person handling, storing, and selling the fish should be able to help you with everything from explaining the different types, to pointing out differences in cuts, and making recommendations on what to purchase based on your needs.
What You Want in Whole Fresh Fish:
- Firm, elastic, and unblemished skin – no red patches along the ventral area (belly side).
- Clear and lively eyes that are not sunken in.
- Bright red gills, not muddy brown.
- Cucumber like odor.
What You Want in Filet or Steak Cuts of Fish:
- Clean-cut flesh.
- Firm and moist texture.
- No leathery traces, yellowing or browning around the edges.
What is “FAS”?
If available, you want seafood with the label, “FAS”, or “Frozen at Sea”. Here’s why…
Most “wild caught” fish that is in a unfrozen state and properly iced, has a shelf life of 5 days, if caught 48 hours before delivery.
Seafood can spend 10 days or more in transit before reaching the market. Fishing boats must be ultra clean, with proper chilling procedures on board to deliver “fresh fish” within that period.
Legally, all “wild caught” fish is flash-frozen at extremely low temperatures for as little as 3 seconds on-board to kill parasites. This fish comes with the label “FAS” or Frozen at Sea and is favored because it fish remains nutritionally intact and stays “fresh” longer.
What’s your best tip for buying fresh fish? Do you prefer the fish market or your local grocery store? Chat it out in the comments section below on on my Facebook page…see you there!