To maximize the freshness of their catch, many fishing vessels immediately process and freeze the fish on the boat. As long as temperatures remain consistent during transit, this method results creates a high quality, consumer ready product.
When buying frozen fish, be sure to avoid packages that are torn, open, or crushed. Look for packages free of frost or ice crystals, as this is a sign the fish may have been thawed and refrozen or stored for too long.
Purchase fresh seafood from a reliable retailer or fishmonger who handles seafood properly. The key to buying fresh fish is to look for a business with quick turnaround on their stock. Don't be afraid to ask which item is freshest and check to see what the catch of the day is. Also, don't be misled by the term "fresh". Most grocers in landlocked areas are selling either frozen or previously frozen fish. If you prefer fresh and not frozen, look for a retailer that values freshness.
Make sure whole fish is set out on a bed of ice and look at it closely. The flesh should be shiny and firm, the eyes clear and slightly bulging, and the gills should be bright pink and wet (not slimy or dry). Fresh fish should not smell "fishy" or sour; instead it should have a fresh, mild odor.
Fillets and steaks should look moist with no discoloration or dry edges. The meat should not have any gaps or be separating from itself.
Cooking times will vary based on the freshness and size of the fish you are cooking, but there is a general rule to keep in mind. For broiling, poaching, baking, grilling, or pan-frying fresh fish, the cooking time is 10 minutes per inch of thickness. For frozen, unthawed fish, double the cooking time to 20 minutes per inch. Fish is done when it begins to flake when tested with a fork. If fillets are thicker in the center than at the ends, reduce cooking time slightly or the thinner areas will be overcooked.
Reduce your exposure to contaminants and mercury in fish by:
- Eating a variety of smaller fish
- Larger fish, such as swordfish and shark, which prey on smaller fish, have higher levels of mercury.
- Removing any visible fat before cooking
- Most contaminants accumulate in the fat and skin of the fish. Avoid eating or cooking with fish fats.
- Mercury, however, is stored in the fillet of the fish and is not reduced by removing the fat or skin. Eating only the fillet and not the skin
- Cooking the fish properly
Avoid eating large fish such as:
- King Mackerel
- Tile Fish