Cooking School Secrets: Buying Fresh Fish

Sure, it cost more. Yet for the past I'd-rather-not-say-how-many years, I only bought fish from the most expensive stores in town. I'd like to say that it's because I preferred the quality...the truth is I didn't trust my ability to choose fresh fish. Particularly in land-locked Phoenix.

All I knew was that it shouldn't have a very fishy smell. Pretty much a no-brainer, but that wasn't enough to go on.

Choosing fish isn't tough when you know what to look for. Follow these freshness checks and you'll be able to choose quality fish:

• There should be no visible cuts or bruises.

• Slime (if there is any) should be clear.

• The fins should be pliable.

• The scales should be tightly attached.

• Eyes should be clear and bulging.

• The flesh should bounce back when touched.

• Gills should be bright pink or maroon.

• There should be no belly burn (brownish, mushy meat that indicates the guts were left in the fish too long).

• The fish should have a sweet, sea smell.

Remember that fish is perishable so keep it cold (preferably on ice - even in the refrigerator) - and use it within a day or two.

Now I'm free to shop wherever I want - and so are you. A little knowledge goes a long way.

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