Knowing how to pick out fresh fish at the store means the difference between an amazing fish dinner or a downright awful one. Has your fish ever tasted like a penny or had an overwhelming fishy flavor? This occurs because the fish isn't terribly fresh. While it's safe to eat, it's not going to be very enjoyable. Fish are fragile and start to deteriorate quickly and the more it's handled the quicker that process occurs. Here are 5 steps to choose the best fish at the market.
- Skin on. Whole fish is always best because once you start cutting it and exposing it to oxygen it starts to break down. If you're not comfortable with all of that skin make sure to buy your fillet with skin on the bottom. See my recipe for cooking whole fish!
- Bright eyes. If you're purchasing a whole fish, look for bright eyes, not dull and cloudy. This is an indication of how long the fish has been sitting in the market.
- Bright, metallic scales. A fresh fish should look like it just came out of the water and that means the scales will be vibrant with a metallic color.
- Firm w/ no soft, mushy centers. Fish should look and feel firm. If the fillet has a mushy part that looks like it's breaking apart, keep looking for a better fillet.
- Smell. While I realize you can't always smell what's behind the counter it's a good test! Fish shouldn't have an overwhelming “fishy” smell. If you open the packaging and you're overwhelmed by the smell chances are you'll have a metallic taste from a not so fresh fish.
If you ever get a chance to eat fish that is caught the same day…do so! You'll be able to experience what fish should taste like! By following these tips you will have a much better experience buying tasty, quality fish even if it's not caught same day.