8 Tips For Fish Shopping

If you grew up in a landlocked area like this author did—or you’re just not a foodie at heart—odds are you’re a bit clueless when it comes to fish shopping. Alton Brown of the Food Network offers some quick advice on how to find the best fish the next time you go to the market.

Smell the air – “Under no circumstances should there be a fishy smell in the air,” says Brown. “Smelly fish means fish that are going bad!” But he also says that a “nice marine smell” coming off the crustaceans is okay.

Look for ice – If there isn’t any, leave. The fish (especially cut fish) should be well-iced at all times.

Look for whole fish – That means the shop is doing its own cutting on-premises, not shipping already cut fish in from who-knows-where.

Smell the fish – Like the shop itself, any “fishy” smell is a sign that it’s already started to go bad. Brown says he smells “cucumbers and watermelon” when he smells a fresh fish, which is probably why we don’t watch him on The Food Network, come to think of it.

Read all 8 tips at MSNBC’s website.

“Get the inside dish on shopping for fresh fish” [MSNBC]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. UpsetPanda says:

    + 15,000 points because I love Alton Brown
    – 5,000 points for using “your” instead of “you’re” or “you are”
    – 5,000 points for forgetting punctuation at “If you really want to know if a fish is fresh, close your eyes and smell it shouldn’t smell like fish!”

  2. @MissJ: You totally scared me, and I just spent five minutes proofing and re-proofing the post. Then I realized the typos were in the source article!

  3. CoffeeAddict says:

    Yeah for Alton Brown he is very kewl guy and very wise in the ways of the foodie. I happen to have a awesome place where I buy my fish. I’m the only one in my family who loves fish and for me to go there is almost like being at disneyland. It has so much great seafood I gush every time I talk to anyone about it. Give it up for fish :)

  4. UpsetPanda says:

    @Chris Walters: Haha, so sorry about that. :-P

    I love fish and hate it when I walk into any grocery area and smell fish. Seems weird, I mean, you see fish, you smell fish, but I hate the smell of fish. I remember when my grandmother didn’t think the fishmongers did a good enough job of cleaning and cutting the fish and decided she could do a better job – on her front step.

  5. harleymcc says:

    Being a true squid-jigger, I can tell you a few tales:

    -Never buy cooked lobsters

    -Don’t buy breaded fresh fish

    -Never, ever, ever buy where there is a fish smell!

    -Touch the flesh (sounds like a Spinal Tap single) and look for a nice bounce-back

    -Always buy Nova Scotian fish (sorry, a plug)

  6. k8supergrover says:

    I was the seafood girl at my local supermarket in highschool and most of these are spot on. If you can find a supermarket with a tank of fish swimming around in it like we had, that’s usually a good one to pick. Tip the girl behind the counter $1 to catch one that’s swimming fast, the slow swimmers will be on sale tomorrow :s

    Add “you got to make sure” to that list, MISSJ.

    Is it just me or is it too much to ask to have a proof reader who can actually proof? Or at the very least a “report a typo” link on every article?

  7. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @k8supergrover: I already offered them my services, but “nit-picky pedant with too much time on her hands” didn’t seem to set them on fire over at Gawker Central.

  8. oneswellfoop says:

    Anther buying tip as far as selection, and one for staorage.

    Buy wild caught fish if possible. Farm raised fish will tend to have more fat, which means more flavor technically, but farm raised fish aren’t as good for you. Wild caught fish have more nutrients and good stuff, omega 3’s and the like. If possible, buy line caught fish as well. Stress ruins a product. When fish are caught in a net, they are often dragged for miles, freaking out and secreting chemicals into their muscles that tighten them up and then usually die of asphyxiation on ice. Line caught fish are usually reeled in and knocked on the head, then put on ice, yielding a more expensive, but much better quality meat.
    As far as once you get the fish home:
    Whether it’s the whole fish, or a fillet, you should get a tub, put a colander or similar piece in the tub so that there is a good inch or two of clearance between the colander and the bottom of the tub. Put the fish or fillets in the colander and surround it on all sides with ice. Not in a plastic bag, direct contact is best. Put this in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf, always the bottom shelf for meats. The sooner you cook the better, but if it is a day or two, make sure you drain the excess fluid and melted ice so that it never directly contacts the fish. This setup will keep the fish cold enough to slow spoilage, but not freeze the fish, which is detrimental to the quality of the meat. Make sure the temp in your fridge is not set so that it will freeze things on the bottom shelf.

  9. magus_melchior says:

    @MissJ: “Seems weird, I mean, you see fish, you smell fish, but I hate the smell of fish.” It’s not weird, that’s a perfectly good reaction to rotting fish smell (which is often called a “fishy smell”).

    @Chris Walters: I’m sure the “cucumbers and watermelon” thing was meant to be off-beat, which AB tends to be. He means more like if the fish smells like water or the sea, you’re good to buy. Sometimes his science is off, but he’s harmless.

  10. creativecstasy says:

    Oh man, I expected this article to be about buying PET fish. Boy, was I surprised!

  11. scarletvirtue says:

    One thing that I remember AB saying on “Good Eats” was to get to know your fishmonger. That way you can be assured that you’re getting good fish, and also (as is the case with mine) get some preparation/serving tips.