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Saturday, August 11, 2007

What to look for when buying fish

by Scott Bird

Fishmonger in Philadelphia's 9th Street Italian Market. Photo © Joy Gant.
Several years ago one of the major newspapers here listed a half-dozen Australian restaurants in the 'you have to try this sometime' category. Most of them were big names, in prime locations and were accompanied by unsurprisingly expensive menus.

One of them, however, was a tiny fish 'n' chip shop.

Since we first ventured over there to check it out, we've been regular customers. Why? They clearly know how to buy fish. It's always excellent.

If you're not lucky enough to have a place like this nearby, you can still reap the rewards of great seafood by keeping your eyes open. Whether you shop at a fishmonger or a supermarket, there are a few things that will help ensure you end up with a beautiful meal.

Unpackaged fish, as at a fishmonger or supermarket fish counter

No 'fishy smell'

All fish have a smell, but it only becomes 'fishy' once the fish is in decline. When it's fresh, it won't have a strong odour at all. If it has that 'fishy' smell, don't buy it.

NB : If you're buying fish from a market, don't be alarmed if the market itself has a fishy smell (many do - especially if they're filleting fish on the premises). As long as the fish itself doesn't smell bad, you'll be fine.

Bright eyes

If you're buying whole fish, the eyes should be bright and proud; not sunken and dull. If the eyes are no good, move along.

NB : Several species of deep-water fish (such as grouper) have slightly cloudier eyes. If you're in any doubt, try a different type of fish.

Bright red gills

The area just inside the gills should be nice and red; gradually this turns a dull brown (once the fish has been landed, that is). If it's started to dull, put the fish back. Look elsewhere.

Firm flesh

The flesh should be reasonably firm, shiny and springy. If it feels soft and waterlogged, it's no good.


Whilst the above indicators will give you an idea of how fresh the fish is (how quickly it's moved from the water to your table); it's also good to have an idea of how the fish has been handled. The most obvious sign of rough handling is bruising. If the fish has been bruised, don't buy it.

Packaged fish, as in smaller supermarkets

Packaged fish
This is where things become interesting, as you're trusting those who packaged the fish to have done a good job for you. In most cases they will have done (after all, they want you to come back and buy from them again): but there are still a couple of things to bear in mind.

'Best-before' date

This date goes by different names around the world, but simply refers to the last date the supermarket expects you to eat the fish. The following day, it'd end up in the trash.

Many supermarkets use a preservative gas around the fish; simply to keep it looking as good as possible until this date has arrived. This is usually for four days or so.

Whenever possible, buy the fish as many days prior to the 'best-before' date as possible. If you happen to notice the delivery truck one day, try to buy your fish at about the same time each week. Especially if you see the shelves restocked just as you get there.

Getting it home

Having gone to the trouble of finding a great piece of fish, it'd be a shame to damage it on the trip home. If it's a hot day, the backseat of a car isn't the best place to be. Think cool and dark, and you'll be fine.

Mike Tyson
Also, make sure it's fairly well packed. If it arrives looking as though it's just gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, it wasn't.

That's really all there is to it. Now the fun part - cooking it. I'll go through some of my favourite recipes in a future article; for now though, just experiment. It's beautiful food.

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Rob Coopers Fat burning tips In 1990 Rob weighed 475 pounds and was able to burn almost 300 lbs of fat in just two and a half years. Rob does weight management coaching from his office in Edmonton Alberta Canada. Rob's diet is based on a "System Specific Organic Whole Food" line of foods along with various fat burning, muscle building tips from Tom Venuto. Tom's Philosophy is very similar to Rob's and he's happy to recommend them

Rob is currently using the Seven Minute Muscle Workout program.


At 11:00 PM, Blogger Spidey said...

Good tips, I like fish but if you aren't paying attention you can get that "fishy" fish that tastes a bit gamey.


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