Seafood Quality Guide

Quality should be your main consideration in buying fresh or frozen fish. Good seafood Does not smell "fishy". The following are some tips, which will help you select good seafood.

Fresh Fillets and steaks

  • Flesh: Firm Texture. Moist, glossy, translucent appearance. No traces of browning or drying out.
  • Odor: Fresh ocean smell; not offensive.

Fresh whole fish

  • Eyes: Bright, clear and full. Cloudy, sunken eyes are signs the fish is getting old. 
  • Gills: Red. Gills darken to pink, gray and finally brown or dark green with age.
  • Odor: Fresh and mild. With age, a strong, offensive "fishy" odor develops.
  • Skin: Shiny, bright colors. Skin colors fade with age.
  • Flesh: Firm, elastic, not separating from the bones. Does not retain the imprint of fingers when handled. Fish which have been bled are usually of higher quality, have a better flavor and a longer shelf life.

Frozen Fish

  • Flesh: Solidly frozen. Glossy appearance on cut surfaces. No signs of drying or discoloration. No parched, white areas indicating freezer burn.
  • Package: Wrapped tightly in moisture/ vapor proof material. No ice crystals or frost inside package.
  • Whole fish: Bled, rock-hard, rounded bodies.

Live oysters, clams and mussels

  • Tightly closed shell. A gaping shell, which does not close tightly when tapped indicates that the shellfish is dead and should not be eaten.

Pink shrimp

  • Mild odor, moist appearance, good color, no signs of drying. Pink shrimp are cooked and peeled at the processing plant and ready to eat.

Dungeness Crab

  • Whole cooked at the plant, they're ready to eat. Live crab should show movement

Maintain quality at home

  • Store in coldest part of refrigerator.
  • Keep frozen fish frozen; thaw in refrigerator. Fish can also be thawed in an insulated fish box or wrapped with newspaper or in a tub of cool water.
  • Fresh fish should be used within three days or frozen for later user.
  • Crab and shrimp meat need air. Don't store in a closed plastic bay; use within three days or freeze.
  • Store live shellfish on ice or in refrigerator; never in water.
  • Keep shellfish alive until cooked.

How much fish to purchase

  • Fillets, steaks — 1/3 lb. per person
  • Dressed fish (head off. gutted) — 1/2 lb. per person
  • Whole fish — 1 lb. per person
  • A whole Dungeness crab will yield about 25% meat
  • Oregon shrimp are cooked and peeled at the plant.

How to Cook

Quickly, Bake, barbecue, broil, fry, steam or saute. Fish is a natural "fast food." It's quick, easy and economical. Your fish is cooked to perfection when the meat turns from translucent to opaque and flakes when gently touched with a fork at the thickest part. Try the Canadian cooking rule for fish: For each inch of thickness, at the thickest part, allow 10 minutes cooking time at 450 degrees F. If fish is wrapped in foil, allow 15 minutes cooking time per inch. Allow 20 minutes per inch of frozen fish.

For Dugeness Crab, boil a large pot of water, add 1/2 cup salt, add crabs return to boil., cook 15 minutes.

How to freeze

You should cook your fish as soon as you can to enjoy it at optimum freshness. Otherwise, freeze it to better preserve its quality. The fresher you freeze it, the better the product when thawed. Fish freezes well if it's done right. The secret is an airtight covering. For short-term freezing (one month), lay the fillets on a cookie sheet and cover with a plastic wrap. Freeze until solid and package in an airtight plastic bag.

Freezing fish for longer periods requires that you glaze the fillets. Freeze fish in individual, unwrapped portions. Then dip each piece in clean, cold water and freeze again (up to 1 hour). Repeat the process several times. The result will be an airtight glaze, which will help prevent drying and freezer burn. You can then stack the individually glazed fillets in freezer bags and store them in the freezer.

Remove fillets one at a time, as needed, for cooking. Cook your fish frozen or thaw slowly in the refrigerator in a shallow pan covered with plastic wrap. Don't refreeze after thawing. Seafood plants use a similar freezing process called "IQF" (individually quick-frozen) to freeze fish directly off the boat. Some fishermen are now equipped to freeze their catch fresh on their boats. Albacore is a good example of this. You can feel confident that the "fresh frozen" fish you purchase at the market of from a fisherman will be excellent. If you but whole frozen fish, thaw just enough to fillet. It's OK to refreeze the fillets if they still contain ice crystals.
Quality seafood means quality handling. If you are uncertain how the product has been handled, how old it is or how long it's been frozen, ask before you buy. Use these tips to judge for yourself.

Prepared by
Ginny Goblirsch
Extension Sea Grant Agent
Lincoln County Extension Office

Information obtained from "Newport Fishermen's Wives Seafood Cookbook ed. 3, 1999"