Fresh seafood is a very special thing. It’s a treat getting fresh seafood from thousands of miles away delivered straight to your door. And since you’re paying your fair share for such a specialty item, you deserve the highest quality possible. Whether you’re ordering Alaskan Spotted Prawns or a hearty Maine Lobster, this overview of seafood and cues to their freshness should be of great use to seafood lovers everywhere.
- Shrimp: Shrimp, as goes with all fresh seafood, should never smell fishy. It should smell of the sea. Second, look for slime. If the shrimp are covered in slime (this too is the same for other seafood), that also means they’re no longer fresh and should be tossed out pronto. Fresh shrimp in your refrigerator will last 3 days max, so make sure to freeze them after that. Also, a good way to keep your fresh shrimp in tip top shape is to store them in a Ziploc bag with ice. And if the heads are still intact, check to see if they’ve turned color. If they’re black by more than 50%, they’ve gone bad.
- Whole fish: Fresh or saltwater makes no difference when it comes to judging the freshness of fish. First, look at the eyes. This is one of the easiest ways to determine the freshness of a whole fish. They must be clear and bright. Eyes that are cloudy, dull or gray means the fish has gone bad. Second, look at the scales. They should be beautiful, meaning they shine in metallic brilliantness and are perfectly clean. If the scales have dulled and there are discolored patches, the fish is mediocre at best. Third, look at the gills. They should be bright red and not faded.
- Fish fillets: Determining the freshness of a fish fillet is similar determining the freshness of a whole fish. Look for an overall vibrancy in all the colors of the fillet, from shiny metallic skin to strong and bright (not faded in color) flesh. If any liquid happens to be sitting on the fish upon opening, look to see if the liquid is clear or milky. You do not want milky, as milky liquid on a fish is the first stage of decomposition. And last, press your finger into it the flesh, if the indentation left by your finger disappears, you’re good to go.
- Crab: An important concern when buying fresh crab is making sure the supposed “fresh” crab isn’t just frozen crab that’s been de-thawed and shipped. To make sure your fresh King Crab (this goes for other crab as well) hasn’t been previously frozen, look for the following signs: 1) Curdled clumps of white crab blood on the meat. 2) A slightly tough texture. 3) A less rich and saltier flavor. And to detect if the meat is spoiled, it will be sticky, yellow in color and will smell like ammonia. Fresh crab should last in your fridge for up to 3 days.
- Mussels/Clams: It’s all about one thing when it comes to determining the freshness of mussels and clams: 1) Smell. They should smell like a clean beach. Next, look at the shell. If it’s gaping open it means it’s dead or beginning to spoil. If the shell is just slightly open, you can get the shell to close and maintain it’s freshness (until they’re cooked) by tapping the shell. The shell should close within 30 seconds - 1 minute after tapping. And for mussels in particular, look for the little “beard” (looks like peat moss) at the back of the shell. If that’s still intact, your mussels are as fresh as can be. Also, if any of your mussels/clams don’t open after cooking, discard them.
- Oysters: And to make sure your fresh oysters are safe for consumption, look at the meat. It should nestle snugly in the shell (and yes need loosening with a knife). Both the shell and meat should be a clean white color (with a little pink or gray coloring also acceptable) with a glassy sheen covering the meat. Also, any oysters with flesh/juices that are cloudy, brown, gray or reddish in color should be discarded.
While the top-rated Seafood Market sites featured in our matrix are all known for their always-fresh seafood, it never hurts to know the signs of freshness, just in case.
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