How to Buy Seafood
Information and tips to keep in mind when choosing and buying quality seafood, both fresh and frozen.
Buy seafood from knowledgeable, reputable dealers—those you trust with a known record of proper handling practices—and keep these tips in mind:
- If a seafood counter or freezer case smells fishy, shop somewhere else—fresh, quality seafood should smell like the ocean, not sour or fishy
- Look for seafood that is properly iced and refrigerated or frozen
How to Buy Fresh Seafood
When buying seafood from your local seafood counter, follow these guidelines:
- Whole fish or fish filets should generally have firm, shiny flesh—fish filets that have been previously frozen might not look as shiny, due to the freezing process, but they are still great to eat
- Whole fish should have bright, clear, full eyes that are often protruding and gills that are bright red or pink—as the fish loses freshness, the eyes become cloudy and sunken
- Check to make certain that there is no darkening or brown or yellowish discoloration around the edges of fish filets and steaks, especially if the edges appear dry or mushy
If you’re still uncertain about how fresh the fish is, ask to have it rinsed under cold water and then smell it—fresh fish should not smell fishy or like ammonia.
How to Buy Frozen Seafood
Frozen seafood is also a great choice, as fresh catch is often immediately processed and frozen after being caught. Follow these tips below when buying frozen seafood:
- Whole fish should be free of ice crystals, with no discoloration
- Filets or steaks should be solidly frozen in the package
- There should be no evidence of the fish drying out (white spots, dark spots, discoloration, or fading of red or pink flesh)
- There should be no signs of frost or ice particles inside the package—if ice crystals are present, the fish has either been stored for a long period or thawed and refrozen
- There should be no liquid (frozen or thawed) in the package
- Make sure there are no open, torn, or crushed edges on the packages
- Avoid packages that are above the frost line in a store’s display freezer
Also, check out our U.S. Seafood Profiles.