Shop Smarter for Seafood: Supermarket Savvy
This year, I am preparing a traditional Italian Christmas meal, and in our house, that means seafood! I’ve always assumed that the “fresh” fish sold at my market was actually flash frozen when caught. Commercial fishing boats remain at sea for several weeks, so if they didn’t freeze the catch each day, it would spoil. Stores charge more for “fresh” fish, though, so I called my local fish market to ask why.
My local fish guy explained that he travels to Boston (our closest big coastal fish market) twice a week and buys whatever looks good. Apparently, fish caught by day boats is never frozen. It’s stored on ice, but it gets to the market within hours of being caught. So, if I’m buying fresh fish from his store, it’s only as old as his last trip to Boston. He confirmed that fish coming from a deep-sea fishing ship has certainly been flash frozen and then thawed at market. Cod and haddock from Canada or Norway were two examples he mentioned of fish that is almost always frozen.
Another interesting fact: most fresh fish is consumed on the coasts; virtually none of it makes it inland. So, those of you in the Midwest are unlikely to have access to never-frozen fish, unless it’s been caught in one of your local freshwater sources.
My fish guy’s advice to savvy consumers was to question your seafood purveyor, wherever you are: coast or Midwest; specialty fish market or grocery store counter. Learn how their fish is delivered, and on which days. If your goal is to get the freshest fish, shop on or just after a delivery day. If you’re looking for the cheapest price, go just before a delivery day, when the market will reduce prices to make room for the new fish.
And for you landlocked folks out there, you might be wise to try those frozen fillets in your supermarket’s freezer section. One source tells me that they’re often just as good (and cheaper) than what you’ll find at the fish counter. The secret is to remove them from their packaging, wrap them in plastic, and let them thaw slowly in your refrigerator (8 – 10 hours) rather than trying to zap them in the microwave.
Snagged your catch of the day? Try these fantastic 30-minute fish recipes!