How To Buy & Handle Seafood: The Ultimate Guide.

seafood on ice

The popularity of seafood is on the rise in the United States, with a growing demand for both domestic and imported fish. This can make buying seafood seem daunting, but with a little knowledge you can easily buy and handle seafood like a pro. 

In this post, we’ll walk you through the basics of buying and handling seafood, from selecting the right type of fish to preparing it for cooking. 

We’ll also provide some helpful tips on how to avoid food poisoning when eating seafood. So let’s get started!

Table of Contents

What is Seafood

Seafood is a culinary term that refers to any marine animal or edible vegetables that lives in the sea. The food is eaten in many cultures, including many Asian,African and European cultures.

It is also used in the cooking of North America, Australia, and New Zealand. In the United States, seafood is usually sold and consumed in a raw or cooked form, as well as dried and frozen.

Seafood is high in protein, and many of the different types of seafood are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to be good for human health.

Types of Seafood 

Seafood is a healthy, delicious, and versatile option for any occasion, but it can be tricky to know how to select and prepare it. With this comprehensive guide, you’ll be able to confidently purchase and cook seafood like a pro.

To start, let’s take a look at the different types of seafood available. 

There are four main categories: finfish, shellfish, crustaceans and sea vegetables



Finfish are aquatic vertebrates (animals with a backbone) having gills,fins, and usually an elongated body covered with scales. They can be fresh or saltwater fish. 

Rainbow trout, catfish, tilapia, salmon, flatfish, tuna, and pollock are fish commonly available for consumption. Catfish are one species of fish that do not have scales.



Molluscan shellfish or mollusks are aquatic invertebrates characterized by a shell (sometimes lacking) of one, two, or more pieces that wholly or partly enclose the soft unsegmented body. 

Examples include oysters, clams, mussels, squid, and scallops.

Molluscs and shellfish are a type of seafood that many people are not familiar with. This is because they are not as popular as other types of seafood, such as fish and shrimp. However, they are a very healthy and nutritious type of food that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

These types of seafood are low in fat and calories, but are high in protein and other nutrients. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for the health of the heart and brain. In addition, they are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including zinc


Crustaceans, or shellfish, are arthropods (a group of animals that includes insects and spiders) characterized by a hard, close-fitting shell that is shed periodically. They are invertebrates that lack a backbone. Popular crustaceans sold as seafood include

shrimp, lobsters, crabs, and crayfish (also known as crawfish).

They can also be found in both salt and freshwater.

Sea Vegetables

fresh seaweed

Sea Vegetables or seaweed are a group of aquatic plants that have adapted to live in salt water environments. They contain many vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to humans. Some sea vegetables include: wakame, kombu, nori, arame, hijiki, dulse, laver, kelp, and others.

Tips On Buying  Seafood 

Buying seafood is an exciting part of any trip to the ocean. But buying seafood safely can be tricky. Here’s what you need to know about safe seafood handling.

When you buy seafood, you should follow these tips to avoid food poisoning and other health problems.

Know What You’re Buying

Before you go shopping for seafood, you should know what kind of fish you want.

Fish is classified into three categories: fresh, frozen, and canned. Fresh fish has been caught recently and is usually sold live. Frozen fish is frozen immediately after catching. Canned fish is packed in saltwater and then preserved.

Fresh fish is generally available year round, but frozen and canned fish may be seasonal. If you don’t see fresh or frozen fish in stores, ask your local fishmonger or market manager.

Read Labels

Read labels carefully to find out where the seafood was caught and processed.

Look for the following information:

  • Country of origin
  • Species name
  • Size
  • Grade
  • Pack size
  • Net weight
  • Color
  • Odor
  • Water content
  • Freezing method
  • Canning method
  • Storage temperature
  • Best by date
  • Fishy smell
  • Other notes

Choose Safely

Choose seafood that doesn’t contain unsafe levels of mercury or other contaminants. Mercury is a naturally occurring element found in the environment. It is used in dental fillings and other products.

Some types of fish have higher concentrations of mercury than others. The most common type of mercury contamination comes from eating fish that have eaten smaller fish that have eaten larger fish.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends limiting consumption of certain types of fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and marlin.

Other types of fish are considered low-mercury options. These include salmon, tuna, pollock, catfish, cod, haddock, flounder, sole, snapper, halibut, tilapia, and trout.

Buy fish and shellfish from reputable sources. Choose fresh fish or shellfish that is refrigerated or kept on ice.

Do not buy cooked or ready-to-eat fish or shellfish that is touching raw fish or shellfish because cooked and raw food should always be kept separate.

When you are shopping, pick up fish and shellfish last and take it straight home. Fish and shellfish go off very quickly when they are out of the fridge.

Avoid Contaminated Seafood because it contains high levels of bacteria, parasites, or chemicals. Bacteria is a natural part of the environment.

However, some types of bacteria can cause illness. Parasites are microscopic organisms that live inside animals. They can cause serious illnesses. Chemicals are man made substances that can harm people.

How to Handle Seafood 

  • Discard mussels, oysters or clams or any other live shellfish if their shells crack or break, or if the shells are open and don’t close when you tap them. Live shellfish will ‘clam up’ if their shells are tapped
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling fish or shellfish. Also wash hands frequently during preparation and use gloves when cutting raw meat or poultry.
  • Do not allow raw fish or shellfish to come into contact with cooked or ready-to-eat food
  • Use separate cutting boards, knives, plates, etc. for preparing raw and cooked ready-to-eat food
  • To prevent food poisoning and other harmful effects from contaminated seafood, wash it thoroughly before cooking.

Cooking kills many types of bacteria and parasites. To kill parasites, cook at least 145°F for 15 minutes. For bacteria, cook at 160°F for 10 minutes.

Storing and preparing Seafood

Fish storage
  • Fish and shellfish must be placed in the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home
  • Cover all fish and shellfish in containers. Keep seafood refrigerated until you plan to serve it. Keep it away from onions, garlic, and other foods that could spoil.
  • Do not put mussels, oysters or clams or any other live shellfish into airtight containers because they need to breathe
  • Do not store fish or shellfish in water
  • Thaw fish or shellfish in the fridge overnight, or if you need to thaw it more quickly, you could use a microwave. Use the ‘defrost’ setting and stop when the fish is icy but flexible
  • When marinating seafood, put it in the fridge and throw the marinade away after removing the raw fish or shellfish. If you want to use the marinade as a dip or sauce, set some aside before it touches the raw fish
  • Store seafood properly to keep it safe until you eat it.
  • Don’t store seafood in plastic bags. Plastic can leach chemicals into the food. Use glass containers instead.
  • Use a tight lid to seal the container tightly. Don’t leave the lid off.
  • Store seafood in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

Buying Frozen Seafood

frozen sefood in plastic bags

Frozen seafood is often cheaper than its fresh counterpart. This is because frozen seafood has already been processed and packed into containers. The quality of frozen seafood is also guaranteed since it is stored at -18°C.

When buying frozen seafood, you should look for the following;

  • Solidly frozen with glossy surfaces
  • No signs of frost on seafood or package interior
  • No strong or unpleasant odors
  • Flesh is evenly colored with no white patches (sign of drying) or orange coloration (sign of rancidity)
  • Packaging is undamaged with no signs of thawing and refreezing (package still as original shape, no frost on the inside)

Buying Fresh or Thawed Fillets and Steaks

Fresh fish fillets

A Steak is a cut from the side of a fish while a filet is the flat portion on the top of the fish. When buying fresh or thawed fillets and steaks you shoul look out for the following;

  • Fresh mild “seaweedy” odor
  • No bruising, blood spots or browning
  • Firm, elastic and moist flesh with almost translucent color
  • Clean, carefully executed, trimming, boning and skinning

Buying Smoked Fish

Smoked fish is a type of food that has been cured using salt, smoke, and sometimes other ingredients. The smoking process gives the fish its distinctive flavor. There are several types of smoked fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, and eel. Good smoked fish has the following;

  • Bright, glossy appearance
  • Clean, smoky odor
  • Firm texture
  • No signs of mold, dried blood or salt crystals

Buying Live Lobster, Crab and Crayfish

live lobster

When buying live seafood, you should consider the size of the fish, its age, where it was caught and how fresh it is. You should also look for the following signs;

  • Cold and sluggish, but showing some leg movement
  • Shells are clean without dark blotches or cracks
  • Lobster tail curls under body when picked up
  • Weight seems heavy for size

Buying Live Oysters, Clams and Mussels

These three seafood delicacies are high in minerals, vitamins, and nutrients, as well as being low in fat. Live oysters, clams and mussels are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to keep the heart healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for proper brain development and for the production of prostaglandins, which are important for the health of the heart and blood vessels. Look for the following when buying;

  • Shells are hard, unbroken and reasonably clean
  • Shells tightly closed or close when touched (Soft shell clams can’t completely close, but the shells and the “necks” will show more movement)
  • The bottom shells of oysters should be deeply cupped

Buying Fresh or Thawed Shrimp

fresh or thawed shrimp

Fresh shrimp is much more expensive than frozen, but it is also much more flavorful. If you can, buy shrimp as soon as it’s available in your area. It will be the freshest. 

If you’re buying frozen shrimp, make sure that they are the best quality, as it will make a difference in taste. Frozen shrimp will be sold in bags, and are often frozen in large pieces. The best quality frozen shrimp will be in single pieces, and will have a shiny appearance. 

When buying fresh or thawed shrimp, look for the following;

  • Firm flesh completely filling shell
  • No strong odors
  • No blackened edges or black spots on shells
  • Shell and flesh should not feel slippery

Buying Fresh or Thawed Squid

fresh squid

As we know, squid is a very perishable seafood. It should be purchased and eaten within a week. However, we sometimes find it difficult to decide whether to purchase fresh or thawed squid. So here are some tips to help you make the right decision.

  • It must have very firm flesh
  • No tears in skin
  • Skin is cream colored with purple to reddish-brown spots
  • Yellowing and pinkish coloration are signs of aging

If you’re looking for thawed squid, you need to make sure you get fresh squid, since fresh squid doesn’t have any water in it, so it has to be frozen first

Buying Cooked Lobster, Crab, or Shrimp

Lobsters, crabs, and shrimp are easy to find at seafood counters and supermarkets. You may even find cooked lobster or shrimp in the freezer section. Here are some tips for buying cooked lobster, crab, and shrimp.

  • Look for bright red shells
  • Meat should be moist
  • No strong odors
  • Picked lobster meat is snowy white with red tints
  • Crab meat is white with red and brown tints
  • Shrimp meat is white with red or pink tints

Buying Surimi Seafood

Surimi seafood

Surimi is a processed product, made from fish bladders, skin, bones, and head. It’s most commonly found in sushi. The texture and taste are similar to chicken breast meat.

Surimi is made in several different forms.It can be dry or in a brine. It can also be powdered or mixed with a starch.

When buying surimi, you must look for the following:

  • Moist and firm
  • Meat is opaque with an off-white color
  • No strong or unpleasant odors
  • The meat’s surface should have red or pink, shellfish-colored tints

Why is it important to handle seafood properly?

Seafood can be found at all price points, but there are certain foods that are less expensive than others. Seafood, in particular, is one of those foods that can be found at a low price point, but can still be a healthy choice.

However, if the seafood you purchase is not handled properly, the quality of the seafood can be diminished. If the seafood is treated properly, however, it can be a healthy choice at any price.

The proper handling of seafood can help maintain the quality of the seafood, and can help to ensure that the seafood is safe to eat. When you handle seafood, you want to make sure that the seafood is kept cold. If the seafood is kept cold, the seafood will be safe to eat.

If the seafood is not handled properly, the seafood can be contaminated with bacteria. This can cause illness to the person handling the seafood. The seafood can also be contaminated with harmful chemicals. This can be harmful to the person handling the seafood.

If you are going to handle seafood, it is important to make sure that you handle the seafood properly.


Conclusion When it comes to buying seafood, there are so many things to consider that it can be difficult to know what to look for in your seafood. From where the fish was caught to how it was prepared, there are so many things to look for when it comes to buying seafood.

This article is here to help you with all of your questions and to help you with everything you need to know when it comes to buying seafood. It’s always best to have a list of questions before you go shopping for seafood.

There are so many different types of seafood, so it’s always good to be sure to know exactly what you’re looking for. 

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