One advantage of buying whole fish is that it’s easy to tell if it’s fresh. Here’s what to look for.
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- The eyes should be bright and shiny, not cloudy or sunken.
- Look for bright red gills; avoid fish whose gills are a dark rust color.
- If you poke a freshly caught fish lightly with your finger, the flesh will spring back quickly rather than remain indented.
- The skin of a fresh fish glistens with a rainbow sheen.
- Use your nose as well as your eyes and hands: The freshest fish will smell like the ocean; it will not smell fishy.
Once you take your catch home, use it quickly—within a day or two—as it’s highly perishable, or freeze it. Proper storage is a key to maintaining quality. Store whole fish in the coldest part of your fridge wrapped in parchment or butcher’s paper on a tray of crushed ice. Make sure the fish does not come in direct contact with ice, which can cause frost damage. Change the ice frequently, as melting ice will water log the flesh, deteriorating the flavor and texture.