So, you know that fish is good for you, and you’re ready to eat more of it at home. But, you’re not sure where to start and you’re afraid you’ll mess it up—you hear it can be tricky to cook. Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone. Which is why we put a quick guide together to help demystify buying, storing and cooking both fresh and frozen fish.
Make the right pick at the store
If you’re buying fresh fish, you’ll know you’re at a good fish counter if the fish are displayed on an abundance of crushed ice. You want the skin to be shiny and the gills to be a cherry red color—not brown or yellow. Keep a look out for is Frozen-at-Sea (FAS) label, which means the fish was flash frozen aboard the ship soon after harvest. (Sea-frozen fish that has been thawed is nearly indistinguishable from fresh-off-the-line fish, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.)
For frozen fish, make sure the packaging is secure and the contents of the bag are rock solid. When removed from the bag the fish should be shiny and free of ice crystals. Every Australis Barramundi fillet is flash frozen and individually vacuum-sealed to ensure that there is never freezer burn.
Now, let’s talk about price. The cost for fresh fish tends to vary depending on geography, time of year and where you’re buying it. (For example, are you buying wild salmon in June, when it’s in season, or in the middle of winter? Are you shopping at Whole Foods or your local fishmonger?) Frozen on the other hand tends to be less expensive and the prices are more consistent.
As for farm-raised versus wild fish—one isn’t necessarily better than the other. There are good and not-so-great options for both. The important thing to look out for, whether farm-raised or fresh, is understanding how the fish was caught or farmed. Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch® App to get recommendations for responsible choices by species, origin and method.
Learn more about fresh vs. frozen fish.
Store it properly
Frozen fish is perfectly sealed will stay fresh and nutritious in the freezer for a while. (For example, our barramundi frozen fillets are good for up to two years in the freezer.) When it comes to fresh fish, you should eat it within 2-3 days of purchase. If your fish smells unpleasantly fishy—frozen or fresh—don’t eat it. Quality seafood should smell like the ocean, not sour or fishy, according to FishWatch U.S. Seafood Facts.
Cook it (and enjoy)
Contrary to what you might think, fish is actually quite simple to cook. It’s table-ready much faster than other animal proteins like beef or chicken. That said, there are some simple dos and don’ts to remember.
Do keep an eye on it
In general, fish only needs a few minutes of heat on each side to cook. Oil-coated fillets can be pan seared for just 2-3 minutes on each side. When grilling, a moderately thick fillet won’t even need to be flipped. If you’re following a recipe take note of the recommended cook time so that your fish doesn’t turn out too dry (perfectly cooked fish is moist). One of the reasons people, and we, love barramundi is because of its moderate fat content, which makes it very difficult to overcook.
Do know what to look for
Fish is generally done cooking when it starts to flake inside. To check for this, poke a fork into the fillet at an angle, and pull up to peak inside. If the meat is still translucent, it needs to cook longer; if it’s flaky and opaque, it’s ready to go.
Don’t stress about prep
Fish is extremely versatile, and the more mild-tasting the fish is (like barramundi) the more flexibility it has in the kitchen. If step-by-step recipes aren’t your thing or seem overwhelming, simply season the fish with the spices and rubs you already have in your cupboard, or just a little oil, salt and pepper go a long way.
Check out our recipes for simple—and delicious—ways to cook Australis Barramundi.