Fish is among the healthiest foods on the planet. Not only is it packed with important nutrients, such as protein and vitamin D, it is also the world’s best source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly important for your body and brain. So why are people hesitant to buy it? Mostly because consumers are unsure of themselves when it comes to gauging freshness and quality. The following tips will help make you a more confident buyer of both fresh and frozen fish.


There are markers of quality to look for whenever purchasing fish. The USDA labels “Frozen-at-Sea” (FAS) fish. This is fish that has been flash-frozen at extremely low temperatures in as little as three seconds onboard the ship. When thawed, sea-frozen fish are almost indistinguishable from fresh fish, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.


If buying frozen fish, you should be on the lookout for fish that is rock-hard and well-sealed. If you notice any freezer burn spots or frost, do not choose that fish. The longest the fish should be stores in a freezer case is three months, so if the packing denotes that it’s been any longer, do not buy that cut.

Red Flags

Before you handle the fish, check the eyes. They should be crystal-clear, plump, wet, and shiny. Once a fish has been out for too long, its eyes will start to become cloudy and sunken. Also, check the gills for vitality and good color. When a fish is first caught, its gills appear bright red. The brighter the color, the fresher the fish. The gills should also feel clean and cold, not slimy.

For all fish, make sure the flesh is wet and glossy. Fish that is sticky, dry, or chalky has likely been handled improperly (held at warm temperatures), frozen and thawed several times, or is just plain old.

It is easy to become overwhelmed when trying to buy fish in the grocery store. Sometimes, people allow this fear to steer them straight towards the frozen fish sticks. But fear not, buying and cooking fresh and well-handled fish is not hard! Not only that, the benefits of eating fish have been proven time and time again.