Buy seafood from knowledgeable, reputable dealers—those you trust with a known record of proper handling practices—and keep these tips in mind:
- If a seafood counter or freezer case smells fishy, shop somewhere else. Fresh, quality seafood should smell like the ocean, not sour or fishy.
- Look for seafood that is properly iced and refrigerated or frozen.
When buying seafood from your local seafood counter, follow these guidelines:
- Whole fish or fish fillets should generally have firm, shiny flesh. Fish fillets that have been previously frozen might not look as shiny, due to the freezing process, but they are still great to eat.
- Whole fish should have bright, clear, full eyes that are often protruding and gills that are bright red or pink. As the fish loses freshness, the eyes become cloudy and sunken.
- Check to make certain that there is no darkening or brown or yellowish discoloration around the edges of fish fillets and steaks, especially if the edges appear dry or mushy.
- If you’re still uncertain about how fresh the fish is, ask to have it rinsed under cold water and then smell it. Fresh fish should not smell fishy or like ammonia.
Frozen seafood is also a great choice, as fresh catch is often immediately processed and frozen after being caught. Follow the tips below when buying frozen seafood:
- 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 the fish drying out (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 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.
Here are tips on buying specific types of seafood. Also, check out our Seafood Profiles.
- Live clams, oysters, and mussels might have slightly gaping shells and should close tightly when tapped. If not, the shellfish might be dead and should be discarded.
- Live crabs and lobster legs should show leg movement. Leg activity will lessen if refrigerated, but legs should show some movement.
- Raw shrimp meat should be firm and have a mild odor. The shells of most varieties are translucent with a grayish green, pinkish tan, or light pink tint. The shells should not have blackened edges or black spots: this is a sign of quality loss. However, tiger shrimp have bluish colored shells with black lines between the segments of the shell (these are not black spots).
- Fresh scallop meats have a firm texture and a distinctly sweet odor. A sour or iodine smell indicates spoilage. The smaller bay and calico scallops are usually creamy white, although there might be some normal light tan or pink coloration. The larger sea scallops are also generally creamy white, although they might show some normal light orange or pink color.
- Whole squid should have eyes that are clear and full, and the skin should be untorn and the meat very firm. The skin of fresh squid is cream colored with reddish brown spots. As squid ages, the skin turns pinkish and the flesh will yellow.