Let’s Dive in: How to Shop for, Store and Cook Seafood
By dawkelcey | June 07, 2023
Seafood is a versatile menu addition that doesn’t just taste good, neighbors. Its heart-friendly benefits and low fat content make it a great choice for anyone looking to incorporate healthier meals into their lineup. And with so many ways to season and cook seafood, it’s easy to keep menus varied — and tastebuds from becoming bored.
With the vast variety of options available, however, and the careful consideration required for storage and prep work, many people find seafood intimidating. Don’t worry — your Food Town is here to help. In this blog post our pros will walk you through need-to-know info aimed at helping you navigate seafood selection, storage and preparation (and create mouthwatering meals the whole family will love). Read on and get ready to get cookin’!
First Things First: Knowing Which Seafood to Snap Up at Your Neighborhood Grocery A world of wonderful flavor awaits inside your neighborhood grocery store’s seafood section. But for those who don’t prepare this type of fare often (and even for those who do), determining what to buy can be tricky. Before you set out to buy seafood from your Food Town, we recommend having a general idea of the type of meal you plan to prepare. Here are a few tips to help you set your mealtimes up for success.
Mild White Fish Work for a Wide Variety of Meals: Fish such as cod, sole and haddock feature flaky textures and subtle flavors that make them ideal for eats such as fish tacos or fish and chips. (Simply baking them up and squeezing a bit of lemon is enough for a primo meal!) It’s a great go-to if you plan to pair your fish with sauces or fresh herbs, and can be pleasing to even the pickiest palates. There’s a reason cod is the go-to option for so many companies’ kid-pleasing fish sticks!
Salmon’s Sensational if You’re Going for Bold Flavor Profiles: With its vibrant color and buttery texture, this fish is great if you plan a grilled, baked or smoked meal option. You might even consider elevating pasta dishes with flakes of smoked salmon! Just remember, its distinct fishy flavor means salmon might not appeal to every diner — especially little ones or those just setting out to explore the types of seafood they like best.
Shrimp, Crawfish and Other Shellfish Offer a Taste of the Sea: If you’re looking for a meal option that brings a beautiful bit of brine to the plate, consider opting for shellfish. Shrimp is great when sautéed, grilled or tossed into a seafood pasta. Meanwhile, boiled crawfish brings friends, family and other folks together for all sorts of fun. Crabcakes are another easy approach many eaters can’t get enough of.
Oily Fish Offer Big, Bold Flavor: Fish such as tuna, mackerel and sardines aren’t subtle when it comes to their flavor profiles — but they can be pretty phenomenal. Tuna steaks work well on the grill, in salads, in tacos or even when turned into sushi! Rich mackerel, meanwhile, really shines when smoked or marinated. As for sardines, their salty flavor adds something awesome to spreads, on pizzas and even just cooked up on the grill. Just remember, because these varieties taste fishier than other seafood options out there, they might not appeal to everyone.
Hearty Fish Go Great on the Grill: Picks such as salmon, tuna and swordfish can stand up to the heat of the grill without falling apart like other varieties. If you want to get grilling with a more delicate fish, a grilling basket will help ensure a quality cook and keep things held together.
Not Every Fish is Made for Frying: If you fancy an at-home fish fry, you’ll want to avoid varieties that are more steak-like in texture, such as swordfish, salmon or tuna. Not only are they more likely to dry out when prepared in a hot frying pan, but they’re less likely to cook evenly (and all the way through). Instead, opt for the fried faves you grew up with — fish such as catfish, cod, tilapia and walleye.
How to Store and Handle Seafood at Home Seafood storage and cleanliness standards are as important at home as they are at the grocery. Here are some factors to consider once you’ve made your purchases.
Keep Temperatures in Check: As we mentioned before, allowing seafood to fall below safe temperature levels can leave you at risk of food poisoning and related illness. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration advises storing seafood in the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler — and for a maximum of one or two days before cooking it or moving it to the freezer. If you don’t plan to cook your fish immediately, wrap it well as soon as it’s home and stow it in the freezer. Don’t forget, although frozen varieties should be safe to eat for the long term, an extended stay in the freezer can impact flavor and texture.
Be Careful When Thawing: As we’ve mentioned, it’s important to keep your seafood at safe temperature levels. When it comes time to thaw it ahead of mealtime, the pros recommend placing it in the fridge overnight. If thawing needs to take place right away, you can seal your seafood safely in a plastic bag and place that bag in cold water. Using your microwave’s “defrost” setting is another option, but one you should only use if you plan to cook your meal right away. The microwave option can cause you to go a bit too far, accidentally cooking your fish. You’ll want to stop your timer once the fish becomes malleable — but still remains icy.
Avoid Cross Contamination: It’s important to keep raw seafood separate from fresh produce, cooked ingredients and surfaces other foods will come in contact with. After handling raw seafood, thoroughly wash any affected cutting boards, knives, plates or surfaces with warm water and soap. For added protection, consider using a kitchen sanitizer or a cleaning solution made of water and bleach. Just remember, these products carry safety concerns of their own and should only be used in ways indicated on the packaging.
Wash Your Hands: This might seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re in the thick of meal prep with so much happening around you, this step can fall by the wayside. Proper handwashing (a good scrub with soap that lasts at least 20 seconds after handling raw food) is the best way to stave off cross-contamination, and to keep both yourself and those dining with you safe.
Exploring Ways to Cook Seafood This is where things get fun, friends. The simple truth is, seafood is an ideal option for all sorts of flavor profiles — and for a wide range of cooking methods, too. Whether you’re in the mood for spices that pack a punch like our Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya, fresh flavors to cool you down like our Grilled Fish with Pineapple Salsa, a classic fried fave like our Louisiana® Brand Fried Fish or something else entirely, there’s really no end to your available options. The Food Town Recipes page is a great place to get inspired! Keep these cooking tips in mind, though, to prime your meal for success.
If pan-searing your meal, dry your seafood with a paper towel beforehand. Excess moisture can make it difficult to achieve a crispy exterior.
Avoid overhandling your fish. Unlike meat, which you might flip several times throughout the grilling process, you’ll ideally only flip fish once.
Sautéing is a great way to cook virtually every type of fish out there. When going this route, aim to cook it until it’s ALMOST done — then remove it from the heat and wait a bit. Your fish will continue cooking after it comes off the heat and should be just right when it comes time to plate things up.
Broiling is another cooking method that works for nearly every fish — minus large whole fish that weigh in at more than three pounds. You’re better off roasting those really big guys.
Remember, fish and shrimp cook quickly. Follow instructions closely and keep a close eye on your meal as it cooks. Overcooked seafood can take on a tough, dry or rubbery texture.