Six Tips on Buying Fish, From Cod & Capers Owner Steve Gyland
So how do you spot the freshest fish possible? Don't be afraid to ask the guy at the fish counter -- or even the server at your favorite restaurant -- to let you see the fish you'll be eating up-close and personal before it's cooked. "I am constantly handing my fish to my customers to smell and feel," said Gyland. "It's totally OK to do that."
Next, check the odor and texture. If fish has an overly strong, foul, fishy odor, it's probably past its sell-by date. Similarly, if the fish falls apart easily and can't hold up to gentle poking or prodding, it might be going bad. Last, if the fish is slimy or gooey -- if it has a tacky, sticky feeling when you press your fingers or hands together after handling -- bring it back and ask for a refund. That's a good sign the fish is going bad, said Gyland.
6. If It Sounds Too Good to Be True...
If that bargain price for fresh grouper seems amazing, question it, said Gyland, who also believes consumer knowledge is the single most powerful way to fight fraud.
"If you suspect a restaurant or store is selling mislabeled fish, it's important you report it to the state and federal agencies that handle that sort of thing," he said. "When people see their [business] name in the paper or on the news, they'll make sure fraud doesn't ever happen again [in their store]. I truly believe that."
For a list of local restaurants and stores that were found by Oceana researchers to be mislabeling fish last year, see this list compiled by the Palm Beach Post.
Gyland, like many independent fish-market owners, upholds rigorous quality-control testing to ensure that his fish isn't just the freshest around but also the right kind. His new location has several freezers and refrigerators, including a chilled room reserved for his garbage to eliminate the bacteria and pests associated with tons of fishy waste. There's also a large cutting room where his employees slice fillets off whole fish, a great way to ensure that the correct product is being sold under the right name.
So go with your gut: Question the source of the fish when in doubt. It can't hurt to ask your fish purveyor or server where the fish was sourced, see proof of its purchase, and take a closer look yourself.
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