Fresh Fish: There's Nothing Like It!

The key to great-tasting fish is freshness. Ask the right questions and buy the very best you can.

By FamilyTime


As evidence mounts about the health benefits of eating fish, more and more of us turn to this low-fat source of protein once or twice a week. And then there are the longtime fish lovers who have been eating fish regularly for years.

Regardless of which group you fall into, you want to buy the best-tasting fish you can. The key is to buy it as fresh as possible. Flash frozen fish is an acceptable alternative.

Fresh from the Seas and Lakes
Insist on fresh fish, if it's available. Talk to the fishmonger at the supermarket or fish store and find out the fish delivery days. Try to buy it on one of those days, or the next.

In the store, fish should be displayed on beds of cracked ice. This is the best way to keep it cold. Avoid fish wrapped in plastic and displayed in cold bins similar to meat. These refrigeration units are not cold enough for fish.

Examine the fish before you buy. It should be clear colored and moist, not discolored or dry. If the fish is whole, its scales should be intact and bright; its gills should be dark red, not pink or brown; and its eyes should be clear, not milky.

Fillets and steaks should be evenly colored, have no dry patches, and be firm and moist. Do not buy any that are dull looking or mushy.

Ask to smell the fish. It should have no fishy aroma, but instead should be fresh and clean smelling. If it's an ocean swimmer, it should smell of the sea. If your fish monger resists letting you smell the fish, walk away.

Additionally, the fish store or market should smell fresh and clean.

Frozen Fish
In many parts of the country, frozen fish is the only choice. Make sure it is flash frozen and stored well below the freezer's rim in the market. Ask the manager of the fish department if the fish was frozen on board the fishing boat. This is preferred.

Frozen fish should be rock hard. It should not be discolored, which indicates freezer burn. There should be no icy shards inside the packaging, which indicate defrosting and re-freezing.

Storing Fish at Home
Every now and then you will read that you should pack a cooler with ice before you set out to buy fish. This is good advice but unless you have a long drive in the hot sun, not practical. Instead, plan to buy fish last on the list and then drive directly home.

It's never a bad idea to ask the fishmonger for an insulated bag of chopped or shaved ice if you are going straight home. Store fish on on top of it or covered with it in the refrigerator.

Refrigerate fish as soon as you get home. If you have bought a whole fish, keep it wrapped, lay it in a pan, cover it with ice, and then refrigerate.

Most people buy fish steaks or fillets. These do well wraped in plastic and then covered with ice, or set them on a bed of ice in the refrigerator.

Plan to eat the fish on the day you buy it or the next day.

If you freeze the fish, wrap it well and store it in the coldest part of the freezer. Cook it after no more than a month. Defrost it in the refrigerator, never on the counter.

If you take the time to look for the best, you won't be disappointed. Fish is a great meal!