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Test Kitchen tips: Choosing fresh fish

Seafoodcounterkirkmckoy

If you don't cook fish that often, the thought of hitting a fish market (or even cruising your local seafood aisle) when shopping for a recipe can be a bit intimidating. What do you look for? How do you know the fish is fresh? And what should you avoid?

Here's a basic checklist for choosing fresh fish the next time you go shopping:

  • Check the smell first. Good fish (and, by extension, a fish market) will smell clean and fresh, perhaps a little briny, like the ocean. You should never encounter a "fishy" smell -- an off- or fishy odor is the first sign the fish isn't fresh.
  • If buying whole fish, check the eyes. The eyes should be bright, shiny and full; cloudy (or milky) sunken eyes are dead giveaways the fish has been sitting around too long.
  • Take a look at the skin and scales: the fresher the fish, the brighter and more metallic the skin. The skin should not be dull, even in patches.
  • Touch the fish. The fish should be nice and firm, springing back from your touch (it should not be soft or squishy).
  • Make sure the gills are clean and a bright red. As a fish ages, its gills will dull and start to turn brown (slimy gills are a sure sign the fish is starting to go bad).
  • If you're buying steaks or fillets, check to make sure the flesh is bright and firm, not dull and soft. Check the structure (or grain) of the flesh, to make sure it's smooth and intact, not broken or flaky. And be sure the flesh feels -- and smells -- clean; the flesh may be moist, but any moisture should be clear (not cloudy) and the flesh should never feel slimy.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

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-- Noelle Carter
Twitter/noellecarter

Photo: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

 
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