Step up to the seafood counter or frozen fish case, and you'll see an enticing display of one type of seafood after another. How do you choose?A good first step is to wait until you are at the store before deciding which type to buy. Go ahead and plan your menu for seafood, but wait until you are a the the store before deciding the exact type of fish. Here you will be able to select the freshest items in the case, and take advantage of what's on sale whether fresh or frozen.
It's easy to tell when seafood is fresh. Just follow these general guidelines.
- When purchasing whole fish, look for eyes that bulge a little and are clear. This is usually a good indication that the fish is fresh. A few fish have naturally cloudy eyes, however, such as walleye pike.
- When purchasing whole fish or fish fillets, look for firm flesh. If you press the fish with your finger and it leaves an indentation, it is not the highest quality, even though it still may be good to eat. Also look for shiny flesh. Dull flesh may mean that the fish is old. On fish fillets that have been previously frozen, of course, flesh may not be as shiny due to the freezing process, but are great to eat.
- Check to make certain that there is no darkening around the edges of the fish or brown or yellowish discoloration, especially if these areas appear dry or mushy. If you are still uncertain about how fresh the fish is, ask to have it rinsed under cold water and then smell it. Fresh fish should have no fishy or ammonia smell.
- Live clams, oysters, and mussels may have slightly gaping shells and should close tightly when tapped. Live crabs and lobster legs should show leg movement. Leg activity will lessen if refrigerated, but legs should show some movement. If not, the shellfish may be dead and should be discarded.
Much frozen fish today compares in quality to fish directly out of the water.
Fresh catches are immediately processed and frozen at very low temperatures, frequently right on board the vessel.
When buying frozen fish keep in mind the following guidelines.
- Whole fish should be free of ice crystals, with no discoloration.
- Fillets or steaks should be solidly frozen in the package.
- There should be no evidence of drying out, such as 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 evidence 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.
How much to Buy?
- Whole or round fish - 3/4 to 1 lb. per person
- Dressed or cleaned - 1/2 to 3/4 lb. per person
- Fillets and steaks - 1/3 lb. to 1/2 lb. per person
- About 1/4 lb. to 1/3 lb. per person for cooked crab meat, cooked lobster meat, surimi products, cooked and peeled shrimp, raw scallops, raw cleaned squid
- 1 to 2 lb. lobster per person
- 1 to 2 lb. crabs per person
- 12 to 15 mussels per person
- 6 10 12 oysters depending on size
- 6 to 12 clams depending on size
Seafood offers a variety of choices and is a great way to a light and healthy diet. It's low in fat and calories and easy to digest. Accompany seafood with a variety of vegetables and sauces. Seasonings, light sauces, stuffings, and fresh vegetables can complement any seafood dish.
U.S. Department of Commerce/NOAA Fisheries • 1315 East West Highway • Silver Spring, MD 20910 • Phone (301) 427-8300 • Toll Free (800) 422-2750
- NOAA Inspection Manual
- Inspection & Analytical Services Fees
- Consumer Tips
- Certificate Validation
- "An informed society that has confidence in the seafood that they purchase, sell and consume today and in the future."
- To ensure the safety and quality as well as enhance the marketability and sustainability of seafood products for the benefit of the American consumer by providing science based inspection services to the seafood industry.