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Make the Most of Your Seafood Catch

Selecting, Cooking, Freezing, and Storing

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian

Someone once said, “Show me a fish-hater, and I’ll show you a person who has never tasted properly cooked fish.” Whether you made a real catch, or just caught a deal at the grocery, follow these tips to make the most of your seafood. 

 
Seafood Selection
There are many varieties of fish that offer both great taste and versatility to your meal. Seafood is a general term that includes both finfish and shellfish. There are many finfish, including catfish, cod, haddock, flounder, mahi mahi, snapper, tuna, and trout; shellfish include crustaceans (crab, crayfish, lobster, and shrimp) and mollusks (clam, mussel, oyster, scallop, octopus, squid, abalone, conch, and snail). Here’s how to select the best:
  • Choose seafood that is properly iced, well-refrigerated, in clean display cases, and wrapped separately in leak-proof packaging.
  • Always buy from a reputable source.
  • Check the sell by date (not all seafood will have this).
  • If frozen, the fish should be solid, mild in odor, and free of both ice crystals and freezer burn. Do not select a damaged or water-stained package.
  • Whole finfish should have a fresh scent, shiny skin, pink or red gills, and clear eyes.
  • Fish fillets or steaks should have a mild scent, moist flesh, and translucent appearance, with no browning around the edges.   
Handle With Care
Seafood spoils more rapidly than almost any other food! To avoid that “fishy” taste and smell:
  • Clean and gill fresh-caught fish quickly to preserve freshness and eliminate bacterial contamination.
  • Remove butcher wrap and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This will hold in moisture and limit exposure to the air, which can alter flavor. Fish sold in plastic wrap may be left in this style wrapping.
  • Refrigerate fresh fish at 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit, and enjoy it within 2-3 days.
  • Store cooked seafood in the refrigerator no longer than 2-3 days.
  • Store canned seafood in a cool, dry place for no longer than one year.
     
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Freezing Fish
Since fish is highly perishable, freezing is often required. Follow these easy steps for the perfect freeze:
  1. Cut whole, cleaned fish into the form in which it will be used (filets, steaks, etc.).
  2. Carefully wrap the fish in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or freezer paper to protect the fish from air and freezer burn.
  3. Store frozen fish between 0 degrees to –10 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. For best flavor and texture, limit freezer storage to one month.

Fish can also be frozen by “glazing.” Freeze it first uncovered on a tray, then dip frozen pieces in ice water and return to freezer. Repeat this dipping process several times to form a protective ice glaze. Finish by wrapping the fish tightly in aluminum foil and storing in the freezer. 

Thawing Fish
Thawing fish at room temperature or in warm water can be dangerous and promote food poisoning; it can also cause moisture loss, flavor loss, and a mushy texture. To prevent these unwanted effects: 
  • Thaw in the refrigerator (allowing 18-24 hours per pound), or place wrapped fish under cold running water (for ½ hour for per pound of fish).
  • Do not refreeze thawed fish.
Cooking Fish
When preparing a meal, save fish preparation until last to avoid overcooking, which can destroy the flavor and appeal of fish. Also remember to:
  • Cook fresh fish 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness in the oven or in a pan.
  • If cooking fish while still frozen, double the cooking time.
  • As fish cooks, it loses its normal translucent appearance and becomes opaque. Fish is done when it is completely opaque and its outer surface flakes easily when tested with a fork.
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