Things to Look Out for When Buying Seafood for Your Restaurant
This article won’t offer advice on where to buy your seafood; your merchant options – direct from fishing boats or through local seafood outlets - will be largely dictated by geography.
Instead it offers tips on how to tell if seafood is fresh and of good quality. In fact, it’s not really an article, more a highlights reel of fresh seafood versus not fresh seafood. No prose, just pros. Print it and keep it with you for your next shopping trip.
Fresh: Bright, clear eyes that protrude. Bright red or pink gills. Firm flesh that springs back when touched. Shiny skin. Firmly rooted scales.
Not fresh: Cloudy, pink and sunken eyes. Grey, brown, green or just plain dull gills. Dull skin and faded markings. Soft flesh that falls off the bone. Loose scales. Slimy to touch.
Fresh: Firm, springy flesh. Moist and largely transparent.
Not fresh: Soft flesh. Bruised or red flesh due to blood retention. Discoloured or brown edges.
Shellfish (clams, mussels, oysters)
Fresh: Shells should be tightly closed and moist. If open, shells close when tapped. No pungent odour.
Not fresh: Cracked shells. Open shells that don’t close when tapped. Pungent odour.
Fresh: Firm texture. Creamy-white colour. Some orange or pink coloration is also normal. Clean, sweet aroma.
Not fresh: Muscle fibres are pulling apart. Sour, fishy smell.
Live lobsters and crabs
Fresh: Well, they’re still alive, so that’s generally pretty fresh. Lobsters legs should still move. When picked up, tail should curl tightly, not hang limply.
Not fresh: As a rule, dead.
Fresh: If uncooked, translucent shells with a light pink, pinkish tan or greyish green tint. Firm flesh. Mild odour. If cooked, meat should be firm and white with red or pink tints.
Not fresh: Shells with black edges and spots. Bad odour.
Fresh: Flesh is cream with red-to-brown spots, very firm and skin untorn. Eyes are clear and full.
Not fresh: Pinkish skin and yellow flesh.
These days commercially frozen seafood can be pretty much as fresh as, well, fresh seafood. Make sure packaging is tight-fitting and moisture-proof and try to choose packs from under the top layer as long as the packaging is intact and there is no freezer burn.