Purchasing Fish and Seafood



How To Select, Buy, and Cook Quality Fish and Seafood


Whole Salmon

Check out What’s Cooking America’s delicious Fish and Seafood Recipes.


Are you unaccustomed to picking out and buying fresh fish and seafood? 

Do not be afraid to ask questions.  It is your dinner, and you deserve good quality fresh fish! Most good fish markets have staff that are eager to answer questions, as it is part of providing good customer service.

Fresh fish and seafood is at its very best when in season and plentiful, and the price should be cheaper then.


Important – When selecting fresh fish or seafood, follow these simple steps:

Only purchase fish and seafood at reputable markets.

Do not buy anything more than one day or at most a couple of days old.  Avoid fish or seafood that has been in a display case for extended periods, even if it is on ice.  If you are unsure, ask if there is more in the back.  If there is not any fresh fish or seafood available, buying fish or seafood that has been frozen at sea is your next best alternative.

The flesh of fresh fish should always be firm and should adhere firmly to the bone.  Fresh fish should be firm and the flesh should spring back when touched.

Smell the fish.  It should have a “fresh sea” aroma to it – NO STRONG ODORS.  If it has a strong “fishy” smell, it is not fresh and not for you.  Ask at the counter when the fish came in.

If you are shopping at a grocery store, buy the fresh fish or seafood on your way out of the store, take it directly home, and cook it within 24 hours.  Take along a cooler to keep it cool going home.  I always keep cooler in the trunk of my car.

At home, keep the fish as cold as possible until you are ready to cook it.  Store seafood in the coldest part of your refrigerator.  When you are ready to cook the fish, rinse it with cold water.


Fresh fish or seafood is marketed in a number of ways.  The best way to buy fish for preparation ease, is in fresh fillet or steak form.  Fillets are normally bone free and steaks are usually cut into serving portion sizes making your prep time shorter.

Whole Round – Means that the fish are exactly as they came from the water.  The eyes should be clear, the gills bright red, and the skin shiny with tightly clinging scales.  Allow one pound per servings.

Dressed or Pan Dressed Fish – Fish that have scales and entrails removed, and usually also with head, tail, and fins removed.  Allow one-half pound per serving.

Steaks – Ready-to-cook widthwise slices of large fish.  Allow one-third to one-half pound per serving.

Fillets – Ready-to-cook sides of fish cut lengthwise form the backbone.  Allow one-half pound per serving.


How much Fish or Seafood to Buy?

Whole round fish:  3/4 to 1 pound per person

Dressed – Cleaned:  1/2 to 3/4 pound per person

Fillets or Steaks:  1/3 to 1/2 pound per person


Factors In Quality Loss:

Seafood deteriorates much more quickly than most meats.  Bacterial growth is faster and flavor falls off quickly when it is not fresh or when the frozen item is not kept below zero until ready for use.  A “fishy” sharp ammonia odor means deterioration.  About 5 days is the maximum holding time for the top-quality fresh fish, even though it has been cooled quickly after being caught.  Sometimes fish caught at sea are already ten or more days old upon arrival at port, so the fish has lost “freshness” before it gets to market.


Frozen Fish:

Did you know that fresh fish or seafood, frozen at sea, is usually fresher than so called “fresh fish” bought at your store?  Most fish sold frozen is now cleaned, filleted, and frozen right on the boat within a few hours of the catch, preserving its freshness.  Frozen fish in our markets come primarily from Alaska, the North Atlantic, and the Orient.

Buy frozen fish or seafood where you know the turnover is brisk.  See that the packages are fresh looking and unbroken.  Once frozen fish is in the distribution chain, the recommended storage life is three months.

To thaw frozen fish or seafood, thaw slowly in the refrigerator for 24 hours or, if you’re in a hurry, you can run the tightly wrapped fish under COLD water instead of at room temperature.  Cook it as soon as possible to minimize the loss of juices.  Try not to thaw frozen fish completely before cooking, or it may make them very dry and mushy.


Avoid Over Cooking Fish and Seafood!

Resist the temptation to over cook your fish until it “flakes.”  Flaking indicates the fish in becoming dry and overcooked.

Fish is fully cooked when the color turns from translucent to opaque (usually white).  The U.S. food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggest cooking to an Internal Temperature of 145 degrees F.  Buy a good cooking or meat thermometer and please use it!

Thermapen ThermometerThis is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking.  I get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking.  I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right. Originally designed for professional users, the Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by chefs all over the world.  To learn more about this excellent thermometer and to also purchase one (if you desire), just click on the underlined: Thermapen Thermometer.


Check out What’s Cooking America’s delicious Fish and Seafood Recipes.


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