Best Places to Buy Seafood
Buying fresh seafood locally is an excellent way to find high quality, healthy seafood, often at reduced prices. If you live near the water, local seafood may be plentiful, otherwise, you must rely on a reputable market.
Choosing Seafood for the Table
Common sense will guide you in finding the highest quality seafood. Don't be afraid to ask questions before buying! Some seafood varies on appearance and quality during the season, and foods like fish can have a wide range of taste and quality depending on their size, age and freshness. Look for clear natural looking eyes and firm flesh on most fish. Shellfish are sometimes live, which guarantees freshness.
Commercial fishermen, watermen, lobstermen, clammers, shrimpers, and other professionals will sometimes sell seafood direct to consumers. The benefits are obvious; fresh seafood, right off the boat, usually the freshest possible seafood. Finding commercial fishermen that sell their catch right off the boat can be an adventure at the least.
Seafood lovers will need to know a few tricks to accomplish this or be very lucky. First you must either know the area and the captain, or find a local person willing to share information in order to know when the boats will return, and which boats are likely to have seafood to sell.
Fresh seafood lovers might find fish, lobsters, crabs, clams, oysters, scallops, or other seafood this way. Although this is a long shot on finding seafood, it's a great way to combine a weekend getaway with fun activities such as photography, boating or just talking to members of the seafood industry.
Much of the seafood in the USA is harvested by independent commercial fishermen that sell their catch to wholesalers. The seafood is then sent to national or international markets, either fresh or frozen depending on the situation. Many seafood wholesalers accept walk-in customers and can supply fresh, high quality seafood in small or large quantities.
Usually a wholesale establishment can ice your purchase, and sometimes even provide a container. It is always best to know your supplier, bring your cooler, and call ahead if possible.
A wholesale seafood dealer is more likely to have fish and shellfish that are not suitable to buy from the boat, such as wild salmon, swordfish, tuna, shark, or other fish. Seafood wholesalers will also have cold storage, to keep products as fresh as possible.
For most people, a local seafood market is the best bet. Seafood buyers may find a market near home, or while on vacation. In either case, look for businesses with a good long term reputation, clean appearance, and friendly atmosphere. Unless you are minutes from home, bring a cooler and ice! Most seafood needs to be kept on ice or refrigeration from the moment it's purchased.
A fishmonger (seafood market worker) can be an excellent source of information. A good fishmonger will explain the various fish, shellfish and other items in stock, advise you on quality, age, cooking tips, and help pack the items for your trip home.
Seafood markets also offer specialty cookware, recipe books, seasonings, and other items to accent your meal. In addition to fresh local products, many seafood markets will have high quality frozen seafood from all over the region.
Many types of seafood and shellfish are only available locally and in season. Examples of these include fish such as spot, Spanish mackerel, mullet, pigfish, and other species.
Although these niche products are hard to find, they are often excellent values and wonderful table fare. Like most types of seafood, its a good idea to ask your local fish monger about local varieties of fish and shellfish.
Surprisingly, some high quality frozen fish and shellfish are sometimes available, even from grocery stores. Some fish such as ocean perch and pollock are processed and flash frozen at sea, which results in a high quality final product which is available at a reasonable price.
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Shellfish - Oysters, Scallops, Clams
Oysters are favorite shellfish in many parts of the world. In the USA, Virginia oysters are harvested along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.
Depending on the area, oysters may be wild caught or farmed. The flavor of oysters is said to vary by location. Chincoteague oysters are famous in the USA for their salty flavor, due to their close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.
Sea scallops are another delicious shellfish. These deep ocean mollusks yield a mild white muscle that is often served grilled, fried or broiled.
Clams are popular seafood, especially quahogs, soft shelled clams and surf clams. Each type has its special recipes and preparation methods.
Blue mussels are another popular shellfish. Mussels are served steamed, boiled, with pasta, and other dishes.
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