Fish Handling and Quality

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This Topic Page is a guide to fish handling and quality


All of the content for this Topic has been drawn from the current and previous versions of Seafish's The Seafood Guide. To purchase a copy of this large format full colour 63 page publication (£5.00 per copy) please visit the Seafish website here.


Sources of Information

Seasonality of species - see this page of Instant Guides to 22 fish species


To assess the quality of fresh fish, there are a few simple things to look for:
    • Fresh whole fish should have bulging, bright, clear eyes; skin should be shiny, firm and elastic to the touch, gills should be red not brown, and if gutted, the cavity should be clean.
    • Fresh bivalve molluscs should be tightly closed or close on tapping, with no cracks in the shells.
    • Live crustaceans should react to being touched, and the tail should fold under the body of live Lobsters, Langoustines and Crayfish.
    • Smoked fish should be glossy, with no gaping or discolouration. Should smell fresh and smokey.

This is a general guide to storing seafood in a domestic or food service environment, prior to cooking and consumption.

Once received, store whole fish on a tray in a refrigerator covered with cling film at between 0 and 2°C.

The gut cavity should be clean, and the fish should be dry, not sitting in a pool of water if possible, place the fish on a rack in a tray. Fillets and portions should be stored the same way.

Molluscs and live crustaceans should be covered with a damp cloth or seaweed, and a lid kept on the box to avoid dehydration – this helps to keep the chill off.

The ideal temperature is 6-8°C, and never put directly in front of fans blowing chilled air.

Always pick up live crustaceans by the body, not the claws or tail, and treat them carefully - dropping, throwing or skidding the boxes across the floor will stress them and weaken them.

Oysters should be stored cup side down to retain their fluid.

Store smoked fish separately from raw fish in the refrigerator and don’t forget that hot smoked fish is a ‘high care’ product and should be stored accordingly.(i.e. covered and at the top of the refrigerator)

Frozen fish should be defrosted overnight in a refrigerator or cooked from frozen.Instant Guides

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