Most of us know and appreciate just how important fish is to a healthy and balanced diet, but there are still some potentially big gaps in our education when it comes to knowing how to prepare and store fresh fish.
If you fancy a wild-caught Atlantic salmon or some Pacific sardines, these are some of the healthiest fish to eat, but to get the best out of your choice from a health, taste and food safety perspective, you might need some tips on storing and prepare your fish correctly.
Tackling your apprehension over seafood
There is a reason why it is estimated that nearly two-thirds of all seafood is consumed in restaurants, it is because so many of us simply don’t know how to prepare it at home, or have genuine concerns over how to store it safely in the first place.
While that is perfectly understandable, there are some simple rules to remember when buying fresh fish and seafood. The fundamental rule relating to shopping for fresh fish and seafood, is that you should make use of not just your eyes but your nose as well, as these sense yield some vital clues on the suitability of what you are considering buying.
Fresh fish that is in an unfrozen state, should basically smell rather like seawater or perhaps resemble the faint aroma of a cucumber. If the fish or seafood in question is filling your nostrils with what you consider to be a particularly strong and pungent odor, there is every chance that it is not as fresh as you would want it to be.
Some species of fish and seafood will smell stronger than others for sure, but nothing should hit your nose with an offensive aroma, so give your intended purchase the sniff test as well as using your eyes to check out its condition.
What to look for in the condition
It is all very well being told to use your eyes to inspect the fish or seafood, but if you don’t really know what to look for, it makes it difficult to make an informed decision. There are some basic rules of engagement in this respect, which you can follow to help you choose your fish with a greater degree of confidence.
If you remember than finfish should normally offer a firm, slightly elastic flesh to the touch and offer a skin that is relatively unmarred, this is a great starting point to the inspection process. After that, if there is any exposed flesh on display, make sure that it appears to have been freshly cut and that the flesh doesn’t seem to be turning brown or looking like it has dried out.
A fresh fish should primarily look and feel like it has just jumped out of the water and onto the display, which means that it still retains its color, the skin retains an element of moisture and any scales present, are still clinging closely to the skin and do not appear dry or ruffled.
Taste and safety
How you store your fish or seafood is going to impact heavily on how it tastes and how safe it is to eat in the first place. You should really plan to consume your purchase on the day you bought it, or the next day at the latest. Beyond that time period and you start to witness a drop in the quality and flavor of the fish and you also raise the risk of bacteria when you leave it too long to cook and eat.
If you want to get the very best out of your fresh fish, arrange to have it loosely wrapped so that it can breathe a bit, and then pack it in some finely crushed ice, which will help to prevent moisture loss.
Shrimp, lobsters and crab
Shellfish are an area of concern for a number of shoppers who would happily buy these items regularly for their plate at home, if they didn’t have some concerns about how safe they are to prepare properly, and what warning signs to look out for.
Fresh shrimp will have a firm texture to the touch and a give off a reasonably mild odor, so look for those things when buying. A good live lobster should be active rather than lifeless. A good way to tell how fresh it is, would be to see if they curl their tails under when you pick them up.
The same sort of rules apply to buying live crab. They should be quite lively and display movement if they are in a good condition. To check that a soft-shell crab is fresh, it should have a moist appearance and not give off any noticeable odor.
The rules of engagement when it comes to buying fresh fish and seafood, are to use your eyes and nose , together with applying some basic storage and preparation logic, to ensure that you enjoy a tasty and safe meal.