Seafood Tips & Tricks
How much fish or seafood should you purchase?
The Canada Food Guide recommends 2 to 3 servings of lean protein each day for adults.
1 Serving = 2.5 ounces cooked
Depending on the type of seafood being purchased, you will need the following amounts in a raw state per serving.
• Boneless fillets or steaks: Approximately 1/4 pound per serving
• Bone-in fish: Approximately 1/2 pound per serving
• Shell-on shrimp: Approximately 1/3 pound per serving
• Shell-on mussels or clams: Approximately 1/2 pound per serving
• Shelled scallops, shrimp or crabmeat: Approximately 1/4 pound per serving
• Live Lobster or Crab: Approximately 1 pound per serving
How should you handle and store seafood safely?
Always shop for seafood last and pack seafood and fish in separate bags to prevent cross-contamination. Place the product back in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible.
Use fresh seafood within two to three days after buying, or freeze if not already previously frozen, until you are ready to cook.
Do not thaw seafood on the counter or using warm water, bacteria can grow quickly. Instead, thaw frozen seafood in the fridge and cook immediately once defrosted.
Cut and prepare raw seafood on a separate cutting board from that used to cut ready to eat vegetables, fruit or other foods.
Cool leftovers in the fridge, not on the stove or counter.
To prevent any juices from dripping on other foods in the refrigerator, store raw seafood on the bottom shelf.
Cook all seafood to safe internal temperatures. Fish must be cooked until an internal temperature of 158°F (70°C) is reached. Shellfish must be cooked until an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
Plate and serve cooked seafood on a clean platter – do not use the one that held the raw seafood prior to cooking.
Check package label on freshly prepared seafood and use before the “best before” date.
How to select your seafood?
What to look for when buying fish: Fillets should look moist and firm, with no discolouration or dryness around the edges. Look for vibrant, plump flesh. Fresh fish should smell like clean water, or a touch briny. Truly fresh fish smells only faintly of the sea. For skin-on fillets, look for skin that is shiny and metallic. Whole fish should have clear, shiny eyes; moist red gills; and scales that cling tightly to the skin.
What to look for when buying mussels, clams and oysters: Do a “tap test:” live clams, oysters and mussels will close up more tightly when the shell is tapped. If they don’t close when tapped, discard them. In addition, any shellfish that do not open during cooking should be discarded.
What to look for when buying lobster and crab: Look for lobsters or crabs that feel heavy for their size. And watch whether the lobster or crab shows leg movement when picked up, which shows that it is still strong.
Rather than shop for a specific type of fish, see what looks the freshest:
Similar types of fish can usually be substituted in a recipe. If the ingredient list calls for a mild-flavoured white fish such as cod, for example, you can easily substitute orange roughy or snapper. Bolder-flavoured fish, such as tuna and swordfish, are often interchangeable.
Types of Fish
Dark and oil rich: Anchovies, Yellowfin Tuna, Herring, Boston Mackerel, Atlantic Salmon, Sardines, Skipjack Tuna
White, lean, and firm: Alaska Pollock, Catfish, Grouper, Haddock, Cod, Halibut, BC Snapper, Sole, Striped Bass, Swordfish
Medium color and oil rich: Arctic char, Coho salmon, Mahi Mahi, Sockeye Salmon
White, lean, and flaky: Black Sea Bass, Euro Sea Bass, Euro Sea Bream, Flounder, Red Snapper, Tilapia, Rainbow Trout, Whiting
White, firm, and oil rich: Albacore Tuna, Chilean Sea Bass, Cobia, Lake Trout, Lake Whitefish, Pacific Escolar, Pacific Sablefish
* Cooking tips are a guidance.
* Fish must be cooked until an internal temperature of 158 °F (70 °C) is reached.
* Shellfish must be cooked until an internal temperature of 165 °F (74 °C).
* A general rule is to cook fish about 7 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
Sauté: Use a well-seasoned cast-iron or non-stick skillet, and turn the pieces only once―the first side down gets the crispest. It takes only 3 to 4 minutes to sauté thin fillets in a hot skillet.
Baking Fish: Baking is a good method to use for cooking whole fish, stuffed or unstuffed, and large, thicker cuts. While baking, the fish should be basted to keep the meat moist. Baked fillets don’t need to be turned at all.
Broiling Fish: Thinner pieces of fish need basting while broiling. Try lemon juice, wine, and herbs mixed in a little olive oil. Broiled fillets don’t need to be turned at all.
Poaching Fish: When poaching or simmering fillets, don't allow the liquid to boil, as this will break up the tender meat. The liquid should remain at a gentle simmer with bubbles just touching the surface.
Pan Frying: Wipe your fillets dry before frying in hot oil or butter. This will prevent splattering. When sautéing fillets, don't crowd them in the pan. Tightly crowded fish may steam and not reach a golden brown colour. To enhance the flavour of your fillets, dip them in salted milk before breading and frying. Fish fried at a low temperature may absorb a lot of fat. If deep-frying, cook at 350 °F (177 °C) and if pan-frying, cook on medium heat.
Pan-frying Whole Fish: Small fish that are less than 1 1/2 inches thick work well to pan-fry. If thicker than 1 1/2 inches they should be filleted before frying. Frying the fish in butter would give it the best flavor but butter burns too easily. To get the benefit of the butter flavor use half butter and half vegetable oil. Vegetable oil can also be used on its own if desired.
Pan-frying Steaks and Fillets: Fish steaks or fillets should not be thicker than 1 1/2 inches. Slice any pieces over 1 1/2 inches thick into thinner fillets. When frying, cook pieces with similar thickness together so that they cook evenly.
Deep-Frying Fish: It is best to use small pieces of fish when deep-frying. Fish is often covered with flour and seasonings or some type of batter before deep-frying, which provides a crispy, brown crust on the food. Any cooking oil can be used for deep-frying provided it does not smoke or burn at temperatures that may reach as high as 375 °F.
Checking the Temperature of the Oil: A temperature between 350 °F and 375 °F is an ideal range for deep-frying. The correct temperature can be determined with the use of a candy thermometer. Another method that can be used is to place a cube of bread into the oil and if it browns in 45 to 50 seconds, the oil is at the correct temperature.
Barbequing: To prevent fish fillets from sticking to the grill, place them on a layer of aluminum foil. Or, thicker cuts like salmon, haddock and cod loins can be cooked directly on the grill; ensure the grill bars and fish are well oiled. Place the fish directly on medium heat and allow it to fully cook on one side before flipping it. This will eliminate sticking.
Checking Doneness: Similar to meat, fish continues to cook after removing it from the heat. For a more flavourful result, begin checking for doneness a few minutes before the end of the estimated cooking time. Slip a small knife under the fish and gently lift. When fully cooked, the fillet will begin to flake and break open, changing in colour from translucent to opaque.