Quick Reference Selection Guide

DELICATE Flounder/Sole Catfish Herring/Sardine
TEXTURE Orange Roughy Whiting/Hake Smelt
Skate Eel
Sea Trout/Weakfish Butterfish
Alaska Pollock
MEDIUM Cod Ocean Perch/Rockfish Atlantic Salmon
FIRM Haddock Striped Bass King Salmon
TEXTURE Halibut Walleye Pike Mackerel
Tilefish Turbot Amberjack
Grouper Chum Salmon Sockeye Salmon
Snapper Pink Salmon Sablefish
Tilapia Drums Bluefish
Cusk Buffalofish Carp
Ocean Pout Rainbow Trout Pomfret
Wolffish Mahi-Mahi Yellowtail
Sea Bass
Atlantic Pollock
FIRM Monkfish Shark Tuna
TEXTURE Kingklip Sturgeon Marlin


Seafood Buying Guide


Fresh or Thawed Fillets and Steaks

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

Smoked Fillets

Smoked Fish

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

Live Lobster, Crab and Crayfish

  • 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

Live Oysters, Clams and Mussels

  • 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



Fresh-Shucked Oysters

  • Meats are plump and immersed in their liquor (natural juice)
  • Liquor should be clear or slightly opalescent (slightly milky) but not cloudy or gritty
  • Meat color is creamy
  • No strong odors


Fresh or Thawed Scallop Meats

  • Firm and slightly translucent meats
  • Color is creamy white, to tan, to pinkish
  • Strong, but sweet and briny odor

Fresh or Thawed Shrimp

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

Fresh or Thawed Squid

  • 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



Cooked Lobster, Crab, or Shrimp

  • 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


Surimi Seafood

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

Frozen Seafood

  • Solidly frozen with glossy surfaces
  • No signs of frost on seafood or package interior
  • 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)
  • No strong or unpleasant odors

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Maintaining Quality

Handling and Storage

Buying the best is only the beginning of serving the best---as consumers, our job is to handle seafood properly to preserve the quality of seafood between store and table. This is an issue of both quality and safety---the conditions that degrade the taste and texture of seafood also encourage the growth of organisms that cause food-borne illness.

Bacteria are the most important cause of seafood spoilage. So small that one billion would fit on the head of a pin, bacteria are found on all foods not sterilized by canning. While most bacteria are harmless, and some are beneficial (such as those used in making cheese and yogurt), a few common bacteria can cause illness if food is not handled with adequate care.

As soon as a finfish or shellfish is harvested and killed, its natural ability to combat bacteria is destroyed. From that moment on, the quality and safety of the seafood you purchase depends on how it is handled. The two most important factors in proper handling are time and temperature–an increase in either will adversely affect the quality and shelf life of seafood.

As fish and shellfish make their way from the waters throughout the world to your local seafood counter, great care is taken to control time and temperature. Seafood is frozen or chilled and transported by the most efficient means. When you purchase high quality seafood, you know that every effort has been made to provide a delicious and healthful meal.

To get the quality that you pay for, it is important that you exercise the same care:

  • Plan errands so your grocery shopping is the last stop. Make seafood your last purchase, so you can get it home–and back in a refrigerator–as soon as possible.
  • Store seafood in the coldest part of your refrigerator (bottom back) and as close to 32°F as possible.
  • To hold seafood at a colder temperature without turning down the temperature for the entire refrigerator, store it in a resealable plastic bag nested in a pan of ice. Ice regulates its own temperature at exactly 32°F.
  • It's best always to use unfrozen seafood within two days of purchase. (If you plan to keep seafood more than two days, freeze it.)
  • Remember that cooking destroys bacteria. Avoid contaminating cooked seafood with bacteria from raw seafood by always storing seafood in leak proof containers and being careful to handle cooked and raw finfish and shellfish
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In the Freezer

Freezing is a convenient means of preserving seafood. Extreme cold stops the microbial activity that leads to spoilage and helps protect seafood from other physical damage, such as bruising. In addition, freezing provides the opportunity to plan your meals and purchasing to take advantage of low prices and seasonally available seafood.

Unlike water, the freezing of fish does not occur at a single unique temperature. It is a gradual and very energy-intensive process that occurs over a temperature range of from 30°F - 23°F. To preserve the quality of seafood, commercial processors use a variety of freezing techniques to rapidly chill seafood to temperatures below -40°F; limiting the formation of ice crystals that can affect the texture of fish and shellfish. Home freezers are unable to reach such extremely low temperatures, so care should be taken to provide optimal conditions to freeze fish and shellfish as quickly as possible. Place the seafood in a single layer with at least 1 inch of surrounding space to allow for adequate circulation of cold air.

Recommended Temperatures for Storing Seafood

  • Fresh whole finfish 32°F
  • Fresh fillets and steaks 32°F
  • Fresh whole shellfish 32°F
  • Fresh shucked oysters 32°F
  • Live oysters or clams 35°F
  • Live lobsters 40°F
  • Live soft shell crabs 50°F to 55°F
  • Smoked seafood 32°F
  • Cooked seafood 32°F
  • Salted fish 32°F
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Seafood Handling Guide

Whole Dressed Fish
To avoid bruising large fish such as salmon, lift them carefully using both hands. Do not lift by the tail alone. Rinse under cold running water and place directly on ice (the fish's skin protects the flesh from direct contact with the ice); store in refrigerator. Use within one to two days.

Fillets and Steaks
Rinse in cold running water, pat dry with a paper towel and place in resealable plastic bags. Nest bags in ice; store in coldest part of refrigerator. Use within one to two days.

Smoked Seafood
Always handle smoked seafood as you would fresh seafood. Place in resealable plastic bag. Store in coldest part of refrigerator. Keep out of contact with raw seafood.

Live Lobster, Crab and Crayfish
Live lobster, crab and crayfish will remain alive for up to 24 hours. Place in plastic bag with small punctures to allow air circulation. DO NOT place directly on ice, in an airtight container or in water. Cook the same day they are purchased.

Live Oysters, Clams and Mussels
Place in an open shallow container and keep moist by covering with clean damp cloth or paper towel. DO NOT place directly on ice, in an airtight container, in water, or where the shellfish will come in contact with water. Use oysters within 5 days; clams and mussels within two days.

Fresh-Shucked Oysters
Store in original container fully submerged in their liquor (natural juices). Place in coldest part of refrigerator. Use within five days.

Fresh or Thawed Scallops
Store in resealable plastic bag. Place in coldest part of refrigerator. Use within two days.

Fresh or Thawed Shrimp
Rinse in cold running water, drain and place in resealable plastic bag. Nest bag in ice; store in refrigerator. Use within two days.

Fresh or Thawed Squid
Store cleaned in resealable plastic bag. Place in coldest part of refrigerator. Use within one to two days.

Cooked Lobster, Crab or Shrimp
Place cooked whole crab or lobster in rigid resealable container. Use within two to three days. Place crab or lobster meat in resealable plastic bags. Use within three to four days. Store pasteurized crab meat in refrigerator for up to six months, unopened in original container; use within three days after opening Keep out of contact with raw seafood.

Surimi Seafood
Store thawed in refrigerator for no more than 14 days. Keep out of contact with raw seafood.

Refrigerate leftover seafood within two hours of cooking. To cool quickly and evenly, place in a covered pan no more than 2 inches deep and situate in refrigerator with adequate room for circulation of cold air. Use within one to two days.

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Freezing Seafood at Home

Once frozen seafood has thawed, it is best not to refreeze it. Freezing it again will not make the seafood unsafe, but it will adversely affect the seafood's quality. When purchasing seafood that you intend to freeze–particularly if it will be stored in the freezer for several months–it is best to select commercially frozen products from your retailer's freezer. If the seafood you're buying to freeze is not already frozen, check with your fishmonger to find out if it was frozen and thawed before being set out on display.


  1. Rinse the fish with cold running water.
  2. Smaller fish can be frozen in one piece. Larger fish or pieces of fish should be cut into 1-inch thick fillets or steaks.
  3. The key to successful freezing is to create a barrier to air. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap then protect with an over-wrap of aluminum foil.
    Place the seafood in a resealable plastic freezer bag. Press the bag gently to remove air trapped in the bag. Seal and wrap the aluminum foil.
  4. Label with name of seafood and date frozen.
  5. Place in a single layer with at least 1 inch of surrounding space to allow for adequate circulation of cold air. One-inch-thick fillets will freeze in about 16 hours.

Smoked Fish
When freezing smoked fish, brush a light coating of canola oil to reduce dehydration and oxidation. Package and freeze following steps 3 to 5 above.

Cook crab before freezing to prevent discoloration of the crabmeat. Once the crab has cooled and the meat has been picked from the shell, follow steps 3 to 5 above.

The lower the temperature, the longer the storage life of the fish and shellfish. Once frozen, seafood should be stored at temperatures below 0°F. Above 0°F, slow chemical changes occur that will affect color, flavor, texture and nutritive value.

Commercial freezers typically maintain temperatures as low as -20°F–temperatures home freezers generally don't reach or cannot consistently maintain. To preserve seafood in top quality, time in the home freezer should be limited. We recommend that to enjoy the highest quality, home-frozen seafood should be used in no more than two months; commercially frozen seafood up to four months. Try to plan your shopping to avoid prolonged storage.

Once seafood is frozen, it is important to keep it frozen. Even partial thawing and refreezing will affect quality. Place frozen seafood in the coldest part of your freezer. If you are purchasing already frozen seafood, make the seafood counter your last stop before home and move the seafood into the freezer as soon as you get home.

Thawing Seafood
To maintain the quality of frozen seafood, it is best to defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. Whenever possible, avoid thawing seafood at room temperature or by placing it in warm water. Slow thawing will help retain moisture, flavor and nutrients. Figure a thawing time of 18 to 24 hours for a one-pound package.

Of course, it is not always possible to thaw seafood overnight. If you're in a hurry, you can thaw frozen fish and shellfish under cold running water. Seal the seafood in a plastic bag and place in a large bowl. Position the bowl and seafood under the faucet and adjust the faucet so that a steady stream of water circulates and spills out of the bowl. A one-pound package will take 30 to 60 minutes to thaw.

In the Microwave
To thaw seafood in the microwave, select the lowest defrost power (typically 30%) and follow the manufacturer's instructions for thawing. A one-pound portion of seafood will typically take about five minutes. Be careful to avoid cooking the seafood. Fish and shellfish defrosted in the microwave should be prepared immediately.

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 Simply Seafood® Masthead


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 Fat Chart Guide

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