Having been raised on the banks of the Kenai River in Alaska (famous for it’s gigantic King Salmon) it’s no wonder that I can be a bit of an erudite when it comes to the quality of fish that I will eat. There’s some really fresh and lovely fish available in the summer but you have to know what to look for when you purchase your fish. Below I give you my five tips for how to buy fish for that weekend get-together with friends and family.
5 TIPS FOR BUYING FRESH FISH
1. Only Purchase WILD Caught
First and foremost, turn your nose up, like a true fish aficionado, unless it firmly states “WILD caught.” This is true for ALL salmon. If it says “natural” or “Atlantic” or “Farmed” keep walkin’. There are some exceptions when it comes to fish like trout. But since Copper River Salmon and Halibut are coming off the boat as I write this, that’s what you should be looking for this time of year if you want the best of the best. Luckily, they haven’t started farming halibut yet so you don’t have to worry about that. Just look for Pacific Wild Halibut and you’ll be good to go.
2. Give it a good Whiff!
Always give fish a sniff test. If it smells “fishy” then it will taste fishy. If it’s behind glass, don’t be afraid to ask the butcher to smell it. (They’ll likely be impressed that you knew enough to ask.) You can do this even through packaging. Old fish stinks and it will stink it’s way right through plastic. If the entire fish department stinks (as it did at one local store I was recently at) forget it. They wouldn’t know a decent piece of fish if they hooked it themselves.
Sell 3. Date vs. Pack date
Check the date it was put on the shelf. Don’t mistakenly look at the “sell by” date look at the actual “pack” date it was set out for sale. Discard old dates and choose only one that was put out that day (I’ve noticed this to be especially true at Costco). If it’s not packaged ask the butcher when it arrived. Who knows how long it took to get there in the first place? Fresher is always better with fish.
4. Do Judge a Fish By it’s Cover
This is a picture of fish I would NOT buy. Notice the brown edge. Also, it was obviously frozen as the flesh was cracked and dry looking (it was behind plastic wrap so it doesn’t show through very well in the picture). The meat should have a very smooth and glossy finish. If it’s starting to look cracked, or has a sort of inconsistent look to it’s flesh, then put it back. It should not look like it’s just been defrosted.
5. Fresh or Previously Frozen?
Last but not least, check to be sure that the label says “fresh” and not “previously frozen.” Take another look at the salmon label in the first picture. Notice it says “Previously frozen.” Frozen fish can be of high quality if it has been flash frozen on the boat, and then kept at the proper temperatures throughout the year. However, be wary as some stores have let it thaw and then refreeze it. This makes for sub-par fish.
How Should I Prepare My Trophy?
Whether you caught it yourself or managed to find a piece of truly fresh fish at a store or market, your trophy needs nothing more than a little butter, kosher salt (learn what the difference is between salts here) and lemon to be delicious, delectable, and delightful. No need to marinate, smother it in sauce, or fry it to oblivion. Just bake, broil, BBQ (depending on type of fish bought- bake halibut, BBQ or broil salmon), and DON’T overcook (I love this thermometer because it beeps at me when it reaches the proper temperature: 140° F. For only$24, this thermometer (often) costs less than a fillet of salmon, and it’s saved me from ruining a dish more than once).
Serve with a salad and sweet potatoes in coconut oil, for one of the quickest, healthiest, and tastiest meals out there. Plus if you have leftovers, it makes a great breakfast, lunch, or recreated dinner (fish tacos anyone?).
Fillet vs. Steak
Ever wonder what the difference is between a fillet and a steak? Bones. A steak is simply a slice of (say)salmon bones and all. A fillet is a particular way that the fish is cut to eliminate bones.
Enjoy and be sure to let me know if you have any favorite ways of preparing fish!