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Fish Tips

May 13, 1993|RUTH REICHL

Whole Fish

There should be ice on top to discourage bacteria.

Look for bright slime; fish should reflect light.

Red bruising on skin indicates a bad death.

Gills should be bright-red or pink, with no viscosity.

Scale loss indicates rough handling or age.

In headless fish, browning at the neck is a sign of age.

Belly cavity should have a sweet sea smell, not a fishy one.

Clear eyes don't necessarily mean much; some fish remain bright-eyed for weeks, and in others the eyes cloud up within a day.

Fillets and Steaks

Flesh should have a translucent hue, as if you can almost see inside.

The fish should not have a fishy odor.

Unlike whole fish, cut fish should not have ice on top.

Flesh should be luminous and reflect light.

Flesh of white fish should be white; pink flesh is generally a result of bruising.

Circulatory system markings in swordfish and shark should be bright red or pink; brownness is a sign of age.

Flesh should be firm and elastic to the touch.

Tuna should be bright, evenly colored and covered with plastic wrap.

Steaks should be cut to an even thickness.

The percentages are with you when you buy salmon.


Squid: mantle membrane should be mottled gray. A dark-purplish hue denotes age.

Scallops should be translucent; they should not be opaque, even at the edges.

Live mollusks should be refrigerated, not held in water.

Mollusk shells should be closed. Clams and mussels should close when tapped; avoid open oysters even if alive.

Shrimp should be headless (if not alive).

Oysters should have an indication of where they were grown.

Ask to see shipping certificate for live mollusks to determine origin and harvest date.

Just being alive is not an indication of quality in crabs and lobsters; ask how long they have been in the tank.

Larger crabs are a better buy.

Whether small or large, crabs should be heavy.

Whole cracked crabs should be displayed in ice.

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