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Is Your Seafood Fresh?

Have you ever purchased seafood and wondered just how fresh it is?  These days, the practice of catching our own seafood is not quite as common as it used to be.  Sure there are still weekend anglers and dedicated fishermen out there, but for most of us our fish comes from a grocery store or the fish monger.  So how can you tell just how fresh your seafood is? Get Your Seafood Senses Tingling!

 

Fish

 

Use Your Nose

The first and easiest test you should conduct is the sniff test.  Don`t be afraid to get your snout right in there and take a good long whiff. 

If it smells like fresh water or salty/briny (like the sea), well then you’ve got yourself a fresh fish!

 

If it has a strong fishy smell or smells off (maybe like ammonia) then it's probably an old fish.  Some people assume that the smell can be washed off or be cooked out but it can’t.  If it is smelly, you probably should not buy it.  It will only get smellier as time goes by.

 

Use Your Eyes

A good overall visual inspection is always recommended.  Look at the skin, which should look clean and almost metallic.  If there is any liquid on or coming out of the fish, it should be clear, not milky.  Once a fish starts producing a milky liquid, it has entered the first stages of rot.  You also want to look at the flesh of the fish.  Is it firm, bright and fresh looking?  As it begins to deteriorate the flesh will lose its springy texture, and begin to look pale or dull.

 

Use Your Hands

If allowed or at all possible, you should touch the fish.  It should feel wet and slippery like it just came from the sea.  It should also feel slightly rubbery and springy.  If the fish is very hard, dry or soft to the touch, you should not be buying it. 

 

Look Into Its Eyes

If you are buying your fish whole, another great indicator of the freshness is its eyes.  You are looking for the fish’s eye to be bright and clear.  If the eyes are cloudy, the fish is beginning to go off.  Fish with a bit of cloudy colour in their eyes can still be safe to eat, but they are certainly past their prime.

 

Check the Gills

Gills are usually one of the first items to be removed from a fish after it is caught.  But if you manage to find fish with their gills intact, they should have a vibrant and bright red colour to them.  As time passes, the gills will begin to fade and go dull.

 

Shellfish

 

Use your Hands

When purchasing shellfish such as mussels or clams, they should be purchased live as they begin to deteriorate very quickly once they have died releasing enzymes that, at best are unpalatable, or at worst poisonous.  The easiest way to check if they are alive is to gently tap them on a hard surface.  They should close tightly when disturbed.  

 

Use Your Eyes

When cooking clams or mussels, you should see them open in the cooking process.  If at the end of your cooking time there are any mussels or clams which have remained closed, these should be discarded as they are dead.  

 

Oysters are a bit tougher to check, however it can be done.  Firstly you want to avoid any with broken or damaged shells.  Secondly, the shell should be tightly closed, or close quickly with a slight tap.  If they are open and won’t close, get rid of them. Visually, oysters should look bright and vibrant

 

Use Your Nose

Shellfish should have a fresh briny smell to them.  Smelly shellfish are a good way to give yourself a few days’ vacation in bed or hospital.

 

Shrimp / Crayfish

 

Use Your Eyes

Truly fresh shrimp/crayfish appear more translucent than those that are frozen then thawed.

 

BUT unless you live in a region that has easy access to shrimp/crayfish your best bet is to purchase frozen whole shrimp in the shell.  This is because shrimp and crayfish deteriorate very quickly once dead.  The shell helps to protect the flesh during the freezing process, and keeping the head on will result in a moister end product. 

 

Use Your Nose

Fresh shrimp/crayfish should smell mildly of the sea, but not like iodine or ammonia.     

 

Lobster / Crab

 

These are both products you should buy either live or frozen.  

 

Use Your Eyes

When choosing live lobsters or crab you want to look around the tank and see what’s going on in there. Are any huddled up in a corner, looking sullen, tired and unenergetic?  Avoid these guys as they are on their last legs. You should also look at their antennae. If they have been nibbled down to the base, chances are they have been in that tank for a long time. Instead go for the ones who are lively, vibrant and moving around in the tank with long antennae.  These guys are fit and healthy and the ones you want to take home with you.  Just don’t make the mistake of naming them as you are likely to end up with a new pet rather than a delicious dinner.

 

Use Your Nose

Fresh, live lobsters or crab should not have any smell whatsoever. 

 

A lot of these pointers seem like common sense.  But more often than not people will avoid or altogether ignore some of the warning signs of old seafood.  Any fish monger worth visiting should be able to tell you when the fish arrived and when it was caught.  They may not have the information right at their fingertips, but should be willing to get back to you at a minimum to let you know.

 

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