At NC Seafood, we love to share delicious recipes so you can enjoy your favorite fish and seafood dinners at home! We encourage our readers to begin shopping at one of the seafood markets in Raleigh in order to get the freshest, highest-quality fish, shellfish, and other items. However, we also know that it can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know exactly what makes fish “good.” To help you have a better experience, we’re sharing some insider tips for choosing quality seafood at a seafood market.

Why Shop at Seafood Markets in Raleigh

Fish is a more delicate protein than chicken, beef, or pork, and it deteriorates more quickly. The grocery store often receives seafood that has been frozen in order to extend its shelf-life, but that damages the proteins and can affect flavor and texture. Yes, it may be labeled “Fresh Trout,” but underneath, you may see where the sign says, in small print, “previously frozen.” Additionally, it can come from pretty much anywhere – author Paul Greenberg, in his book American Catch found that over 90 percent of the seafood eaten in America comes from foreign countries.

Shopping at a market means you’re generally getting fresh options that will have a more authentic, delicious taste and improved texture. Also, you get to shop local, support the North Carolina fishing industry, and you may even get to build a relationship with a local fishmonger. This typically doesn’t happen at the grocery store.

Using Your Senses to Choose the Best Seafood

One of the best ways to know you’re choosing quality seafood is to simply use your senses, specifically your eyes, nose, and hands!

Look at the Seafood

When you’re purchasing fresh fish, make sure you see a glisten or a shine to the scales, bright, clear eyes, and a bright red or pink color around the gills. If you’re looking at fillets, the color of the meat itself will vary according to the type of fish: whitefish should look white or a light pink, tuna is a deeper red, and wild salmon is a vibrant orange color. With shellfish, look for an intact shell without any cracks or holes.

How can you tell if the fish is bad? If you see any brown around the gills, yellow or brown around the meat, gaps in the flesh, dull, glazed over eyes, or slime on the scales, those are all signs you should keep looking. Also, be sure to look at the conditions of how the fish is kept – lots of ice and no standing water is a good sign!

Feel the Seafood

When you feel the fish, both whole and fillets, they should be firm to the touch. Even tuna, a “softer” fish should have some give to it – mushy or squishy is not something you want to feel.

If you’re shopping for shellfish, you should feel for signs of life. While holding it, tap the bottom of the shell very gently against a hard surface and make sure the shell closes within a few seconds.

Give It a Sniff

One of the most clear-cut ways to tell if a fish or shellfish is bad is simply to smell it. Fish should smell like the sea, and that’s it! If you smell an ammonia smell or an overly “fishy” smell, move on.

Taking Fresh Seafood Home

Once you buy fish or shellfish from a seafood market in Raleigh, you want to maintain that quality. Most likely, you’ll be putting your fish in the refrigerator when you get home, so make sure you take it out of the original package, wrap it in plastic wrap, and keep it on top of a bowl of ice in the fridge. If you plan on freezing it, put it in a vacuum sealed bag, remove the air, and place it in the coldest part of your freezer to minimize ice crystals from forming.

Visit Us for Fresh, Delicious Seafood in Raleigh

While we want to encourage people to shop for quality seafood, we also know that it’s nice to leave the cooking for another day. Visit us at the Farmer’s Market for the best Calabash seafood in Raleigh – check out our menu and place an online to-go order today!