Surprisingly, the response to “What’s for dinner tonight?” For many Americans these days, it is: “seafood.” With fish sales soaring during the pandemic, many people are looking for the best ways to shop and cook everything from salmon and plaice to shellfish and beyond. According to an article by BloombergThe increase in the number of home cooks adding fish to the menu could be due to the fact that people visit restaurants less frequently these days. As a general rule, Americans spend on seafood when they go out to dinner. But with many restaurants closing or switching to take-out, people are trying to cook and eat a variety of fish in their own kitchens.
It’s not only fun to try and cook seafood at home, but it’s also good for you. The The FDA recommends people eat 2 to 3 servings per week from their âbest picksâ list, which includes everything from anchovies and sardines to haddock and tilapia (fish tacos, anyone?). The FDA advises people to eat other types of fish less frequently (see their lists of “good choices” and “choices to avoid”) due to increased mercury levels.
Mike Lata, chef and co-owner of FIG and The Ordinary in Charleston, SC, told TODAY Food in an email that he is seeing increased sales of seafood direct to consumers.
âIn Charleston there are a few new seafood stores as well as the old local stores,â he said. âIt certainly helps. Some fishermen sell their catch at the dock and have even launched the seafood version of CSAs, called Community Supported Fishing. You buy stocks, like a CSA, and then meet with the producer for a weekly pickup or planned monthly which you purchased in advance, quarterly or annually. “
Where to buy fresh seafood and fish
Nina Compton, chef and owner of CompÃ¨re Lapin and Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans, said TODAY in an email that it’s best for home cooks to buy their fish at a local market.
âIdeally, your local seafood market or fishmonger is where you should buy your seafood because a) you will know you are getting it fresh and b) they are very knowledgeable and can guide you to the best seafood. sea ââor fish that they have available, âshe said. âThey are also very good at filleting, cracking and packing seafood. If you don’t have one nearby then a Whole Foods or a Fresh Market is the best thing to do. I would avoid your. usual grocery store, because it probably won’t be that fresh. “
Colin Rooney, general manager of Nassau Street Seafood in Princeton, New Jersey, told TODAY Food it’s best to avoid buying frozen fish if possible.
âIt’s hard to know when the fish was caught and frozen and how long it has been frozen,â Rooney said. “The best practice would be to buy fresh fish and freeze it yourself.”
If you buy frozen fish, follow the FDA guidelines and make sure the packaging is not torn or crushed. When the fish begins to thaw, its consumption becomes a health hazard. Avoid any fish frozen with ice crystals, which can be a sign that the fish has thawed and refrozen. âAvoid packaging where the frozen fish flesh is not tough,â says the FDA. “The fish must not be pliable.”
When you come home from the store, put it in the fridge or freezer shortly after you buy it. If you are freezing fish, wrap it tightly in plastic, foil, or moisture-resistant foil and store it in the freezer.
Rooney said that when it comes to buying seafood, shopping at local markets really makes a difference.
âWhen you shop locally, you will have a more intimate shopping experience,â he said. âAt your local fish market, you can buy fish that is in season versus fish that was caught in a previous season and frozen. “
You can also ask sustainable seafood when you shop to protect our oceans and ensure abundant seafood is available in the future!
When to buy fish
Compton said when it comes to the best time to buy fish, what really matters is when not to buy it.
“Sundays and Mondays are days to be avoided because there will likely only be leftovers and not things that will come straight out of the boats,” she said.
How to cook a whole fish
For a beginner, Compton suggests starting with a whole roasted fish.
âAsk your fishmonger for a white fish like mahi-mahi or branzino,â she said. âThis is a good fish that is easy to roast and has a nice texture. Make sure to check the freshness with a few simple tips: make sure the eyes are clear (not cloudy), make sure the skin is firm and shiny and make sure there is no brown the edges. Ask the seller to scale, gut and rinse the fish or just tell him that you intend to roast it and that he will prepare it for you.
“Once at home, rinse the fish again and dry it,” she advised. “Then brush the whole fish with a very good olive oil. From there, stuff the cavity of the fish with slices of fresh lemon, garlic and your favorite herbs. Don’t forget to season it. outside of the fish and don’t be stingy. Use coarse salt and pepper and some garlic powder (or any other spice). Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and roast your fish for about 18-20 minutes. It will depend the size or type of your fish, but you’ll know it’s done when it’s flaky on the fork Take the fish out, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over it and eat immediately.
Once you’re in the seafood cooking swing, there are some spices you’ll want to keep on hand, Compton said.
âThe ingredients you need to keep at home include fresh lemon, maybe ginger and lemongrass, and fresh garlic,â she said. “Dried spices depend on your taste, but you can’t go wrong with keeping some Paul Prudhomme Darkening Seasoning on. It’s delicious on just about any seafood or fish you cook and packed with flavor.”
Ready to be a seafood chef in your own kitchen? Here are some recipes to try:
Valerie Bertinelli’s Baked Salmon is a simple and tasty recipe that will feed the whole family and minimize cleanup!
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
Fish tacos with coleslaw can be a healthy alternative to meat on taco Tuesday! This recipe uses cod, but you can use any mild white fish, including tilapia, mahi mahi, grouper, plaice, or halibut.
Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
Bouillabaisse may seem intimidating, but this classic French fish stew is extremely doable at home. With clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp and red snapper, this version includes homemade garlic croutons.
Beer Fish and Chips sounds like an amazing meal for any night of the week. Make sure you don’t overload the fish in the pan and save some of the beer from the batter to enjoy with your meal.
10 Minute Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles is a healthy, low-calorie, high-flavor dish that is super quick to prepare.