Look At The Fish To Tell If It Is Fresh

With any fresh fish, the way the fish is cut or sliced and the color of the flesh is more important than anything.  Remember, most pearly white fish filets are mild tasting and tender.  Most all of the fish species like Flounder, Grouper, Scamp, Orange Roughy and Tile Fish are extremely good tasting fish.  More oily fish like Mackerel or darker fleshed fish like Amberjack, Pompano or Mullet are usually steaked out or sold whole.

Since most of the fish you see in fish markets today are filets, you may not have the ability to choose or pick your fish whole.   If you see whole fish on ice, look at the fish carefully.   Most fish are caught on local commercial fishing boats that stay at sea for a week or more at a time.  They gut their fish and leave the heads on to be readily identified by enforcement personnel when they return to dock.   As with any fishing, when it is good, the boats catch their limit and head back to sell their catch quickly.   After they unload, they head back out to sea to catch more fish and the cycle repeats itself.   When the fishing is good, you stand a chance to get fresher fish at the market.

What To Look For When Buying Whole Fish

  • Whole fish should be buried in ice or layered in it.  Fish that is simply stacked on top of each other without ice in between them can create hot spots.

  • Look for red gills, bright skin, shiny, light reflecting skin, firm flesh, no damaged scales and no discoloration of the fish.

  • Whole fish should not have an odor.  Look inside the body cavity.  There should be no bad odors.

Old Myths About Cloudy Eyes

The biggest myths about buying fresh seafood is to look at the color of their eyes.  Now I am not saying to see if they have blue eyes.  You are looking for cloudiness.  The old rumor used to be,  If the fish is old, the eyes will have a white cloudy look over the pupils.   The truth is, there are species of fish whose eyes cloud immediately after death.  Some other species of fish’s eyes remain clear but the rest of the body can be rotten.

Now, with everything today, IQF (individually quick frozen) is a process where fish each filet of fish is individually packaged and vacuumed sealed until ready to sell.   Seafood markets that do not have a lot of daily sales, may use fish filets because they have a longer shelf life.   IQF fish are very good and you will get a quality piece of fish usually.  Most of the larger fishing fleets process their fish at sea and freeze their filets at -60 degrees within minutes after catching them.   These fish when thawed are in better shape than fish that have been sitting on ice for a week before returning to port.

Most of the fish you eat in local restaurants come from IFQ processing.   Local fish like Amberjack, Snapper, Mahi-Mahi, Grouper, Chilean Seabass, Swordfish, Salmon, Tuna and most sushi that you think has never been frozen, has been treated this way.  There are some restaurants that sell stuffed fresh, broiled Flounder.   Whole flounder on the menu in Orange Beach is usually fresh.

Remember, look at the fish.   If it looks like it is rubbery, old around the edges or smells like amonia, you better buy some other species or go to the beef or chicken market.