Good fish looks good, has firm, unmarred flesh, and smells like fresh sea water!
It’s easy to tell when a fish is getting past its prime. As it gets older the enzymes that hold the muscles together begin to break down. The flesh gets softer and the meat breaks apart, which I’ve learned is a process called gaping. Whole fish gives you more signals than fillets or steaks. Look for red gills, bright reflective skin, flesh that is firm to the touch, an undamaged layer of scale, and no browning anywhere. If the fish you are looking to purchase passes the appearance test, make sure to smell it before the fishmonger package it up. If the smell if off, hand it right back.
The best whole fish look alive, as if they just came out of the water. The eyes should be clear and bright – they get cloudier with age.
If you plan on freezing fresh fish, leave the head on! Other than the fact that fish looks better with the head on (in my opinion), the more you cut a fish, meaning the more you expose the flesh, there is a greater chance of freezer burn.
Most fillets and steaks are cut before they even reach a supermarket fish counter. Here’s how you’ll know they’re fresh:
The surface should be bright, clear, reflective – almost translucent.
The colour should be consistent with the type of fish. For example, pearly white fish should not have spots of pink, which are usually bruises, or brown, which indicate spoilage.
Creamy or ivory-coloured fish should have no areas of deep red or brown.
Get to know the ideal appearance of your favourite fish. Reject any that does not meet your standards.
I’m Eartha with today’s Cooks Corner – a how to guide.