Nutrition Articles

Make the Most of Your Seafood Catch

Selecting, Cooking, Freezing, and Storing

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Someone once said, “Show me a fish-hater, and I’ll show you a person who has never tasted properly cooked fish.” Whether you made a real catch, or just caught a deal at the grocery, follow these tips to make the most of your seafood. 
 
Seafood Selection
There are many varieties of fish that offer both great taste and versatility to your meal. Seafood is a general term that includes both finfish and shellfish. There are many finfish, including catfish, cod, haddock, flounder, mahi mahi, snapper, tuna, and trout; shellfish include crustaceans (crab, crayfish, lobster, and shrimp) and mollusks (clam, mussel, oyster, scallop, octopus, squid, abalone, conch, and snail). Here’s how to select the best:
  • Choose seafood that is properly iced, well-refrigerated, in clean display cases, and wrapped separately in leak-proof packaging.
  • Always buy from a reputable source.
  • Check the sell by date (not all seafood will have this).
  • If frozen, the fish should be solid, mild in odor, and free of both ice crystals and freezer burn. Do not select a damaged or water-stained package.
  • Whole finfish should have a fresh scent, shiny skin, pink or red gills, and clear eyes.
  • Fish fillets or steaks should have a mild scent, moist flesh, and translucent appearance, with no browning around the edges.   
Handle With Care
Seafood spoils more rapidly than almost any other food! To avoid that “fishy” taste and smell:
  • Clean and gill fresh-caught fish quickly to preserve freshness and eliminate bacterial contamination.
  • Remove butcher wrap and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This will hold in moisture and limit exposure to the air, which can alter flavor. Fish sold in plastic wrap may be left in this style wrapping.
  • Refrigerate fresh fish at 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit, and enjoy it within 2-3 days.
  • Store cooked seafood in the refrigerator no longer than 2-3 days.
  • Store canned seafood in a cool, dry place for no longer than one year.
     

Freezing Fish
Since fish is highly perishable, freezing is often required. Follow these easy steps for the perfect freeze:
  1. Cut whole, cleaned fish into the form in which it will be used (filets, steaks, etc.).
  2. Carefully wrap the fish in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or freezer paper to protect the fish from air and freezer burn.
  3. Store frozen fish between 0 degrees to –10 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. For best flavor and texture, limit freezer storage to one month.

Fish can also be frozen by “glazing.” Freeze it first uncovered on a tray, then dip frozen pieces in ice water and return to freezer. Repeat this dipping process several times to form a protective ice glaze. Finish by wrapping the fish tightly in aluminum foil and storing in the freezer. 

Thawing Fish
Thawing fish at room temperature or in warm water can be dangerous and promote food poisoning; it can also cause moisture loss, flavor loss, and a mushy texture. To prevent these unwanted effects: 
  • Thaw in the refrigerator (allowing 18-24 hours per pound), or place wrapped fish under cold running water (for ½ hour for per pound of fish).
  • Do not refreeze thawed fish.
Cooking Fish
When preparing a meal, save fish preparation until last to avoid overcooking, which can destroy the flavor and appeal of fish. Also remember to:
  • Cook fresh fish 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness in the oven or in a pan.
  • If cooking fish while still frozen, double the cooking time.
  • As fish cooks, it loses its normal translucent appearance and becomes opaque. Fish is done when it is completely opaque and its outer surface flakes easily when tested with a fork.

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Member Comments

  • BETTYCOOPER121
    Yummy I love sea food!! But storing them is a big headache. Thanxx for sharing this information about storing, freezing, selecting.
  • Great article on fish.
  • HOOKTONTRAVEL
    eh, sorry. grew up on the coast. know how to catch it and prep it just fine (best if you leave it swimming in a bucket until the pan is hot, then behead and gut it and slap it right in the pan)... I still will NEVER choose fish if there's another option. unless i'm forcing myself to eat it once every couple of months because 'it's good for me'.

    But be very careful to eat fish responsibly. So many of them are endangered these days, or contain toxic levels of mercury or other nastiness, or farmed in ways that destroy the wild-dwelling varieties... or its caught in completely unethical manners...it's pretty hideous. At least with chicken and beef I can get it from a local farm and be sure it's treated decently before it gets killed, and that the kill is humane and clean, and that the animal is not in fact, endangered!
  • Thank you for the well written and important article.
  • Just a word about the fish being opaque when it is done cooking. If it does not seem opaque no matter how much you cook it, don't eat it. It will make you very sick...spoken from experience. Sad face.
  • TISHTISHX
    JJEANFREAU...When boiled or steamed, mudbugs are slightly higher in fat & calories than shrimp with the heads left on. The thing you gotta watch out for is sodium because most boils are very salty. Also, most crustations are served with a lot of clarified butter or very rich cream sauces. Hope this helps. Have a head-suckin' good time, I know I will!
  • SPIRAY
    I really like fish, but pretty much never eat it anymore for environmental reasons, even farmed fish (they're kept in corrals which "free" fish swim next to, and then the "free" fish catch their diseases, among other sad things). My only exception is canned sardines, maybe once a month or so.

    Even though salmon was my favorite, I could never eat it anymore. If it interests you, I humbly suggest you give this podcast from the CBC a listen: http://www.cbc.ca
    /ideas/episod
    es/2011/01/10
    /saving-salmon/

    I realize I sound batty. Really, I do. But if you buy local vegetables, or prefer organic chicken... doesn't it make sense to look into fish, too? Just to be informed about what you're eating, instead of buying mystery frozen fish at the supermarket?
  • Perfect timing on this one. We just bought our first fresh fish yesterday. Glad to know how to handle it properly.
  • Yeah, I have had sea food prepared by some of the best chefs around - I still hate it...some of us out here will never like it, no matter what you do to it
  • Great advice. I saved this article for future reference.
  • Great advice! And I just about completely agree - show me a person who doesn't like fish and I'll show you a person who's never had it cooked properly. No doubt there are people who truly don't like fish, but I honestly believe that people who are turned off by fish just have never had it made correctly. By the way, the same holds true for lamb. You have to cook it correctly to get rid of the gaminess.
  • Tastes Great & VERY healthy! Thank you for this great addition to my recipes! Sincerely, SIZE5MOTIVATED
  • Sensible, practical advice on choosing, handling, and cooking fish. The word "seafood" means shellfish to me, however, and information on that would be excellent, too.
  • This article is leaving me hungry for fish, which I don't eat often enough!

    Marie
  • BIRDY100
    I belong to many environmental groups and several sent lists of fish that were better ecology wise than others. Also the higher on the food chain the fish is, the more mercury content will be found. Best choices on both lists are also divided into farmed wild caught and where caught. Fish to avoid due to mercury or other contamination include orange roughy, shark, sturgeon, marlin, swordfish, tuna, bluefin, albacore, bigeye and yellowfin. I was also surprised to see many species on the best choice reccommended list were being farmed, such as Tilapia, rainbow trout, scallops, catfish, barramundi, arctic char. Salmon only wild Alaskan, while farmed salmon were not reccommended. I really like talapia about the best. Most fish I buy is frozen in individual packages within a larger package. That way I can thaw just what I want, not a whole package.

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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