How to Choose Quality Seafood

Seafood-Display.jpg

Whether you are a home cook or a professional chef, the quality of the meal is dependent upon the quality of your ingredients, regardless of the recipe. Chefs know that the quality of their food reflects directly upon their restaurant, as well as upon their name and reputation.  Purchasing quality seafood is therefore extremely important both for the success of their restaurant as well as for the upward progression of their career.  Executive Chef Perry Mascitti says, “I would rather be fired for having a high food cost with quality product, than be fired for serving low quality food to maintain a great food cost.”  It’s a matter of personal pride in one’s work.

Quality Seafood – What to Look For

There are a number of factors which need to be evaluated in order to determine the quality of the seafood we purchase.  Below are some general guidelines; however some fish will have other specific indicators so check-out the profile of the species you are interested in for special details.  For instance, the guidelines for loins from larger fish are somewhat different so see the specific species profiles for fish such as Swordfish or Yellowfin Tuna.

General Guidelines for Purchasing Fresh Whole Fish

If possible, purchase whole Head-On fish.  This will give you the most clues to evaluate the quality of the fish.

  • When your fish delivery arrives, check the temperature of the fish. If it is above 35° F return it to the vendor. For every 2° above 32° F you loose one day of shelf-life.
  • Look for eyes which are clear, shiny and appropriately colored for the specific fish species.  Cloudy eyes means the fish is probably at least 5 days old.  They should not be sunken into the eye socket which would indicate old fish, moisture loss or improper refrigeration.
  • The appearance of the skin (scales) should be bright, have a metallic sheen and not be dull.  The scales should be firmly attached and should not come off easily.
  • Run your finger down the side of the fish from gills to tail, pressing lightly.  The flesh should be firm and bounce back so that the impression your finger leaves disappears quickly.  If the indentation doesn’t bounce back quickly then the fish is either old or previously frozen.
  • The skin may be slippery, but should not be slimy or sticky.
  • Fresh seafood should not stink; it should have a light scent of the sea.  If it smells “fishy” or sour then shop somewhere else.
  • The cavity where the guts were removed should be bright and clean.
  • The gills should be red, not brown.
  • The tail should be moist, not dry or with curled edges at the ends.

General Guidelines for Purchasing Fresh Fish Fillets

If you are buying fillets then try to purchase Skin-On fillets.  This will first allow you to verify that the fish is what they are telling you it is.  And second, it will give another aspect of the fish to check for quality.

  • When your fish delivery arrives, check the temperature of the fish. If it is above 35° F return it to the vendor. For every 2° above 32° F you loose one day of shelf-life.
  • The appearance of the skin (scales) should be bright, have a metallic sheen and not be dull.  The scales should be firmly attached and should not come off easily.
  • Fresh seafood should not stink; it should have the scent of the sea or no scent at all.
  • The flesh should be a uniform color with no discolored looking areas and should have a translucent sheen to it, not opaque.  There should be no dark brown or brick-red spots which may indicate bruising or mishandling.  Previously frozen fish fillets may have yellowish or brown edges if it is freezer-burned… reject it.
  • Run your finger down the side of the fish from where the head was to the tail, pressing lightly.  The flesh should be firm and bounce back so that the impression your finger leaves disappears immediately.  If a trough is left where you ran your finger then the fish is either old or previously frozen.  If water appears during this test then the fish was frozen.
  • Reject fillets with obvious bruising. Bruises cause blood to seep into the flesh which deteriorates the meat faster, damages the color (even after cooking), and contributes to a strong “fishy” aroma and taste.
  • The color of the flesh should be a uniform color with no discolored looking areas.
  • The pin-bones should be firmly attached and difficult to remove.
  • The fillet should be one solid piece with no gaps or tears between the flakes.

 

Follow me on Google Plus!  David Buchanan on Google +