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Buying and Handling Seafood and Fish

Fresh seafood from your local fish market can make for a healthy meal.
Baked, Breaded Fish

A trip to your local seafood market will show you there is a fish for every taste! For the health-conscious, heart-healthy salmon is a popular choice, both farm-raised and wild. Meaty fish like halibut, bass and swordfish are favorites on the grill. Want something lighter? Tilapia, whitefish and orange roughy are flakier and take less time to cook. And with high levels of good fats, shrimp, scallops and other shellfish can be stewed, sautéed or tossed in a salad. 

Keep these basic tips in mind when buying fresh seafood or when choosing a fish recipe. 

Handling Raw Fish 

As with any raw meat, take safety precautions to prevent illness. 

  • Because raw fish and seafood can transmit dangerous bacteria, never let raw or frozen fish sit at room temperature. 
  • After handling raw poultry, thoroughly clean all surfaces, utensils, cutting boards, knives and hands with hot soapy water. 
  • Never serve cooked seafood on the unwashed platter you used to carry raw marinated seafood or fish. 
  • Refrigerate leftovers immediately. The next day you can use leftover fish in your salad, crepes or even pizza. Eat leftover fish within two days. 

Storing Fish 

  • After buying fillets, rewrap them tightly in plastic, and place them in the coldest part of the refrigerator. 
  • Cook the fish as soon as possible. 
  • If the fish is frozen, let it thaw overnight in the coldest part of the refrigerator (a thicker fish may take longer). 

Frozen vs. Fresh 

Frozen fish can also be fresh. Whether it’s in the freezer section, much of the fish in stores has been frozen at some point. 

  • Be wary of strong “fishy” smells. That may indicate bacteria buildup. 
  • A fillet should be almost odorless. 

Wild vs. Farmed Fish 

Commonly farm-raised, salmon is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Farm-raised is much less expensive. Farmed salmon are generally bigger and contain more fat than wild salmon. That’s why they also contain higher levels of certain toxins. Pigment is generally added to farmed salmon, which is lower in nutritional value. 


Fresh shrimp is rare. Shrimp is usually purchased frozen or has been frozen at some point. Larger shrimp are frequently more expensive, but that doesn’t mean they taste better. 

Tip: Shrimp generally should have no black spots on their shells. 

To cook: 

  • Defrost shrimp in the refrigerator or in cold water. 
  • Remove the shell before cooking if the shrimp will be served in hot liquid. For other recipes, leaving the shell on preserves flavor. 
  • Shrimp take as little as three minutes to cook, depending on size. When they’re done, they should be pink and firm.