Wednesday, April 8, 2009

When Good Fish Go Bad...

Here are some things you should look for when purchasing fish at the market to ensure you have a pleasant meal when you get home.

First of all the fish should be displayed in a refrigerated glass front case on a bed of fresh ice. The refrigeration is to ensure the ice doesn't melt, if the ice appears to be melting, the fish is not being kept at the proper temperature.

Now, here are the five things to look for when purchasing fresh fish:

1.Probably the one we all know, fish should smell fresh and mild, the leaner fish will have almost no smell at all while the fattier fish will have a slightly sea-breeze aroma. If you detect an ammonia-like odor it is definitely bad.

2. If you are looking at whole fish the eyes should be clear and bulge slightly. Cloudy sunken eyes are a clear sign the fish is past it's prime. Sometimes the eyes may have been damaged in capture or handling, and some fish like walleye pike have naturally cloudy eyes. Therefore you will want to look at the gills, they should be almost ruby red in color, to me bright red gills are the best indicator of a fresh whole fish.

3. Fish whether whole or filleted should have firm shiny flesh. Dull or dry looking flesh, especially if it appears to be separating is a clear sign of aged fish. Please note however if you are looking at previously frozen fish it will have lost some of its luster but will still be fine.

4. As well as being firm the flesh should have a spring too it. When pressed slightly with your finger it should spring back and not leave an impression where touched.

5. Fish fillets should have no darkening or drying around the edges. There should be no discoloration usually green or yellowish and again should not be dry or mushy.

If you look for these five indicators you should be able to ensure yourself that the fish you take home will make an excellent meal.


  1. Great post and I couldn't agree more. I have always asked to smell the fish before buying and have turned down a few. Fresh fish has no odor, it if does, it's spoiled. I'm never embarrassed to ask to smell the fish first, it's my money and my dinner.

  2. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice post!

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  3. Another great post. Simple, direct and informative.

    I bet that a big reason why fish and other seafood is not served more in American kitchens is that many people have no idea how to purchase OR prepare it.

    Keep up the good work.