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Kitchen Hack: How to Choose the Freshest Fish and Seafood

Last Update: May 24, 2024

Fresh off the line, catch-of-the-day seafood? Absolutely delicious.

Stinky, putrid, one-day-from-rotting seafood bound to turn the stomach? A diner’s worst nightmare.

Learning how to select the freshest seafood is just as important as learning to prepare a succulent salmon fillet. So, whether at the grocery store or the fish market, here’s how to find the ideal specimen.

First and most importantly, use your nose. Truly fresh fish won’t smell “fishy.” Instead, they’ll have a briny, ocean-like scent.

If the fish still has its head, check out the eyes. They shouldn’t be cloudy or discolored, and the fish’s gills should still be red or pink.

The skin also shouldn’t be discolored or peeling away from the meat. If you can, try pressing the fish’s skin with your finger—the skin and meat on a fresh fish will bounce back after you depress it.

Shellfish—such as clams, oysters, and mussels—should be firmly closed and odorless when you buy them. Throw away any shellfish that are cracked or broken. Raw shrimp should still have their shells, and be translucent, odorless, and colorless. Make sure any crabs or lobsters you purchase are live, and that their legs are still moving. If they’re not squirming, that’s a signal to throw them back!

Getting fillets freshly cut from the whole fish is your best bet for the highest quality. Precut fillets are fine, too, but can be contaminated by bacteria when they’re wrapped in plastic.

No matter what kind of seafood you’re in the market for, it’s best to eat fresh fish as soon as possible after you buy them. If you’re not going to eat it within two days, make sure to wrap it tightly in plastic, foil, or moisture-proof paper and freeze it as soon as possible.

Photo credit: Renata Torok-Bognar via Stocksy

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Annalise Mantz

Annalise is a foodie, Brussels sprouts lover, grammar nerd, and political pet aficionado.

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