Online, at your local Fishmonger or Supermarket. What is the best option to buy seafood?
At the supermarket
They may have a fresh fish counter or a section in the chiller department, they will almost certainly have a freezer department.
You may or may not realize this, but all fish starts to spoil as soon as it is killed and the more the seafood is processed / handled the faster it starts to deteriorate. When buying seafood, you want it as fresh as possible, preferably still flapping.
When buying fish, a good way to tell if it is fresh is to press it with your finger, the meat should jump back, not leave your fingerprint. It should smell like the sea, a little ozone and definitely not FISH.
The reason seafood in supermarkets manages to have such a long shelf life is because those little sealed containers have pumped air into them – not air exactly how you and I breathe, but air with the same elements calibrated in a different ratio and this is what keeps the fish from going so fast. As soon as that container is opened, the fish will start to spoil faster (I might add that they do the same with bagged salad). Do you really want to buy fish that has been artificially kept edible?
At the fish counter you will probably find not only whole fish and shellfish, but also steaks, steaks and chops. It is a good idea to ask the assistant when the fish was caught / brought in. They should be able to tell you. Keep an eye out for any fish that have been covered in ice with only the heads sticking out, this is an old trick to disguise the old product, have them scooped it out so you can see the fish properly. If there are fillets for sale, especially sole or plaice fillets, check for any yellowing of the pulp; this is another indication of stale fish and of course ask to smell it.
If you are looking at a whole fish, take a good look at their eyes, they should be clear and bright, not sunken or cloudy. The gills should be deep red and the skin shiny and slippery. If you pick up the fish, it should feel firm, not limp like an old rag doll.
If you are looking for seafood, there are 2 very simple rules to follow. Before cooking, if it is open and does not close when hit hard, please do not buy or cook it. After cooking, if it’s still closed, don’t eat it.
When you buy crab or lobster, pick it up, it should feel heavy for its size.
The third option in the Supermarket is the freezer department. This can be a very good alternative to fresh fish. Look for fish that have been ‘instant frozen’, this means that the fish has been caught and filleted very quickly, possibly at sea, then frozen very quickly, thus retaining all the flavor and nutrients. This is often a much better option than fish that sits for days in the cooler cabinet.
If you are lucky enough to be around a decent Fishmonger, get to know him and he will take care of you. You will invariably know where the shellfish came from and when it was caught. He can prepare it for you and give you tips and recipes. If a special occasion is coming up, let him know ahead of time and he’ll be happy to fulfill your order, delivering it ready to put in the oven or whatever.
Fortunately, now that the Internet has become your thing, buying seafood online has never been easier. There are many small and specialized companies where you can buy not only fresh fish and seafood, but delicacies such as smoked salmon and caviar. They offer excellent fresh seafood in refrigerated, frozen or vacuum packed boxes.