Decoding the Seafood Counter

Decoding the Seafood Counter

"Fishing" to try some new family meals but not sure what to choose from the seafood display? Fishmongers go to great care to stock their seafood counters with some of the best fresh fish and seafood. A typical seafood counter at the grocery store separates fish and seafood by type. Fillets of salmon, grouper or cod might be arranged together, while crustaceans such as lobsters, crabs, crawfish, prawns, and shrimp are grouped near the mollusks which include octopus, squid, mussels, oysters and scallops. 

While most seafood is consumed outside of the home because many people don't feel comfortable cooking it, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' spokesperson, Lauri Wright says there’s no reason to be afraid. Start with some easy dishes like shrimp. Shrimp is one of the most versatile options and the first thing Wright recommends for the seafood-cooking averse. “Sauté in olive oil and add to pasta for a savory dish,” she says. For more flavor, add some herbs or spices like basil or garlic.

From there, she has home chefs graduate to salmon because it’s a firm fish that can be easily grilled, baked, or broiled and it's also flavorful and loaded with healthy nutrients. Depending on the recipe, salmon can be prepared in as quickly as 10 minutes. Other types of fish, like tilapia, cod or haddock can be bought frozen or fresh. For another easy-to-prepare meal, bake fillets with an Old Bay seasoning alongside fresh vegetables. 

Bill Dugan, also known as The Fish Guy, has owned and operated his own seafood companies since 1978. “Cooking seafood is simple,” the owner of Superior Ocean Produce says, noting that the best kitchen gadget to have on hand for seafood is a thermometer. Once the internal temperature of your fish has reached 145°F, you can ensure that it's been fully cooked. 

Seafood can be steamed or baked in a glass casserole, his favorite way. “Add some shaved vegetables, salt, olive oil, lemon zest (not juice), and a splash of white wine, stock, or both,” he says. Butter, he adds, makes everything taste better.

He agrees with Wright that salmon is among the easiest seafood to prepare and a perpetual crowd favorite. Another option for those seeking to dip their toes into cooking seafood for the first time is tuna, which can be seasoned with Grill Mates Hot Pepper Blackened Seasoning before grilling. Shellfish also presents an easy opportunity. While cooking methods and prep differ for items like shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams, they all offer quick cooking times. 

What To Consider When Buying Fish

Fresh or frozen? Local and regional rather than imported? Farm-raised or wild? Even those who cook seafood regularly have questions.

Dugan and Wright both agree that fresh seafood and fish is more flavorful, but Wright acknowledges that frozen is often a more affordable and longer-lasting option than fresh. Frozen seafood can sometimes be found in smaller freezers next to the seafood counter, but more options are located in the frozen food aisles of the grocery store.

While Wright admits a good deal of discussion concerns the issue of "wild" versus "farmed-raised," the nutritional differences between them are not as great as some might imagine. “Farmed and wild-caught rainbow trout, for example, are almost identical in terms of calories, protein, and most nutrients,” says Wright.

When it comes to whole fish versus fillets, seafood store owner Dugan prefers to fillet all of their fish from whole because he wants customers to be able to see that it's firm and fresh. 

Spice It Up

There are so many different seasoning options to spice up seafood and fish, says Wright. She often recommends Old Bay for fish or shrimp. For salmon, she suggests garlic and pepper, Perfect Pinch Salt-Free Fiesta Citrus Seasoning, Grill Mates Garlic, Herb & Wine Marinade, or Lawry's Teriyaki Marinade With Pineapple Juice

Adding seafood into one’s daily diet can be as easy as trying things that have lower preparation and minimal cooking times. To start, head to the seafood counter at your local grocery store and strike up a conversation with the fishmonger on the best fish or seafood to try that day along with their favorite preparation tips.  

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