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Tips for Selecting and Preparing Seafood

Someone once said, "Show me a fish hater, and I’ll show you a person who has never tasted properly cooked fish." Whether you made a real catch, or just caught a deal at the grocery, follow these tips to make the most of your seafood. 
 

Seafood Selection

 
There are many varieties of fish that offer both great taste and versatility to your meal. Seafood is a general term that includes both finfish and shellfish. There are many finfish, including catfish, cod, haddock, flounder, mahi-mahi, snapper, tuna and trout; shellfish include crustaceans (crab, crayfish, lobster and shrimp) and mollusks (clam, mussel, oyster, scallop, octopus, squid, abalone, conch and snail). Here’s how to select the best:
  • Choose seafood that is properly iced, well-refrigerated, in clean display cases and wrapped separately in leak-proof packaging.
  • Always buy from a reputable source.
  • Check the sell-by date (not all seafood will have this).
  • If frozen, the fish should be solid, mild in odor and free of both ice crystals and freezer burn. Do not select a damaged or water-stained package.
  • Whole finfish should have a fresh scent, shiny skin, pink or red gills, and clear eyes.
  • Fish fillets or steaks should have a mild scent, moist flesh, and translucent appearance, with no browning around the edges.   

Handle With Care

 
Seafood spoils more rapidly than almost any other food! To avoid that "fishy" taste and smell:
  • Clean and gill fresh-caught fish quickly to preserve freshness and eliminate bacterial contamination.
  • Remove butcher wrap and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This will hold in moisture and limit exposure to the air, which can alter the flavor. Fish sold in plastic wrap may be left in this style wrapping.
  • Refrigerate fresh fish at 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit and enjoy it within 2-3 days.
  • Store cooked seafood in the refrigerator no longer than 2-3 days.
  • Store canned seafood in a cool, dry place for no longer than one year.

Freezing Fish

 
Since fish is highly perishable, freezing is often required. Follow these easy steps for the perfect freeze:
  1. Cut whole, cleaned fish into the form in which it will be used (filets, steaks, etc.).
  2. Carefully wrap the fish in plastic wrap, aluminum foil or freezer paper to protect the fish from air and freezer burn.
  3. Store frozen fish between 0 degrees to –10 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. For best flavor and texture, limit freezer storage to one month.

Fish can also be frozen by "glazing." Freeze it first uncovered on a tray, then dip frozen pieces in ice water and return to freezer. Repeat this dipping process several times to form a protective ice glaze. Finish by wrapping the fish tightly in aluminum foil and storing in the freezer. 
 

Thawing Fish

 
Thawing fish at room temperature or in warm water can be dangerous and promote food poisoning; it can also cause moisture loss, flavor loss and a mushy texture. To prevent these unwanted effects: 
  • Thaw in the refrigerator (allowing 18-24 hours per pound), or place wrapped fish under cold running water (for ½ hour for per pound of fish).
  • Do not refreeze thawed fish.

Cooking Fish

 
When preparing a meal, save fish preparation until last to avoid overcooking, which can destroy the flavor and appeal of fish. Also remember to:
  • Cook fresh fish 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness in the oven or in a pan.
  • If cooking fish while still frozen, double the cooking time.
  • As fish cooks, it loses its normal translucent appearance and becomes opaque. Fish is done when it is completely opaque and its outer surface flakes easily when tested with a fork.
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Member Comments

thanks Report
Great lean protein Report
TOMATOCAFEGAL
Fish. Like salmon and shrimp the best Report
Great Article
Report
ROSSYFLOSSY
Great tips! Report
Good information to remember. Report
Good article. Report
Good to know...thanks! Report
good fish tips Report
BETTYCOOPER121
Yummy I love sea food!! But storing them is a big headache. Thanxx for sharing this information about storing, freezing, selecting. Report
Great article on fish. Report
HOOKTONTRAVEL
eh, sorry. grew up on the coast. know how to catch it and prep it just fine (best if you leave it swimming in a bucket until the pan is hot, then behead and gut it and slap it right in the pan)... I still will NEVER choose fish if there's another option. unless i'm forcing myself to eat it once every couple of months because 'it's good for me'.

But be very careful to eat fish responsibly. So many of them are endangered these days, or contain toxic levels of mercury or other nastiness, or farmed in ways that destroy the wild-dwelling varieties... or its caught in completely unethical manners...it's pretty hideous. At least with chicken and beef I can get it from a local farm and be sure it's treated decently before it gets killed, and that the kill is humane and clean, and that the animal is not in fact, endangered! Report
Thank you for the well written and important article. Report
Just a word about the fish being opaque when it is done cooking. If it does not seem opaque no matter how much you cook it, don't eat it. It will make you very sick...spoken from experience. Sad face. Report
TISHTISHX
JJEANFREAU...When boiled or steamed, mudbugs are slightly higher in fat & calories than shrimp with the heads left on. The thing you gotta watch out for is sodium because most boils are very salty. Also, most crustations are served with a lot of clarified butter or very rich cream sauces. Hope this helps. Have a head-suckin' good time, I know I will! Report
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About The Author

Becky Hand
Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.