A Guide To Choosing The Freshest Fish

Choosing the best and freshest fish is notoriously known as being no easy feat. If you’re a student in a culinary arts program, you’ll be working with a wide variety of fish. Knowing how to pick one that is fresh is vital to crafting a delicious meal. The best way is to use your senses of sight, touch and smell. Here are some tips for the next time you’re at the market:

What it should look like
When purchasing full fish, look at the eyes for freshness. They should appear clear, bright, plump and shiny. Eyes of a past-its-prime fish are usually the first to deteriorate. The eyes dry out, become cloudy and dull, or can even sink in or shrivel away. The fish may be okay to eat, but it is definitely not the freshest you can find. If the eyes are clear, the fish is most likely fresh and healthy.

For the body of the fish, look at the colors for indicators of freshness. If the skin is still intact, it should appear shiny and metallic. Make sure to check the gills as well. The brighter red they are, the fresher the fish is. If there is liquid on the fish, it should be a clear color. Milky liquids suggest that the fish is already rotting, or will soon.

What it should feel like
If you have access to the fish, try running your hand over the scales. The scales should still be shiny and firm. Dry and flaky scales often mean that fresh is old and deteriorating. If the fish’s tail and dorsal fins still attached, note their current state. If either has rips or tears, this is a telltale sign of mishandling. This fish could have been netted too long or tossed around too much, which can indicate that it’s not in tip-top shape to buy.

What it should smell like
Fresh fish should smell like seawater or cucumber. Though fish counters often get a bad reputation for scent, it should not smell overly offensive. Pungent aromas like sourness are a good sign of fish mishandling. If you smell anything like this, go somewhere else. Fresh fish should smell like clean water. If you’re not sure, ask the seller to run cold water over the fish and try smelling it again. The important thing to remember is to never buy a strong-smelling fish, cooking will not improve it.

A general rule of thumb is to eye how all of the fish is stored. Whatever kind of seafood it is, it should be properly iced and cold.

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