Unlocking the Mysteries of Whole Fish

Buying fish whole at the market can save you a whole boatload of money since you’re not paying for any of the labor or packaging – just the beautiful, succulent fish itself.  On top of that, buying a whole fish helps you to assess its condition and quality much more carefully than you might if all you were looking at was a pre-packaged fillet.  Here’s a little crash course to alleviate the intimidation and get you cooking!  Don’t forget to check out our ever-evolving recipes page for great ideas.

Now what to look for…  When shopping for fish, you always want to buy fish that is as fresh as possible, at our market that’s never a problem since the fish is caught no more than 36 hours ahead of the market and sometimes as few as 10-12 hours (that’s right, a lot of our fish come into the docks in the wee hours of the morning and make their way to your plate by evening time)!  When you’re looking at the offerings of whole fish at the farmers market or elsewhere, here are some things to consider:

  • Skin – should look shiny
  • Scales – should be tight to the body of the fish
  • Flesh – should be firm and should bounce back when you press it
  • Gills – should be bright red or pink – no mucus
  • Color – there should be no browning around the belly cavity
  • Eyes – should be bright and clear
  • Smell – there should be no fishy smell – just a mild ocean smell

Always keep the fish as cold as possible until you are ready to cook it, store seafood in the coldest part of your refrigerator. When you ready to cook the fish, rinse it with cold water.

Now, once you’re whole fish is home, the fun really begins – CLEANING it!  Cleaning (also known as scaling and gutting) can be an intimidating task, but one that’s totally worth it when you get the very most out of your food dollar and really get to learn the ins and outs of the meal your preparing.  Chef Apple has put together a great 10-minute YouTube video that will turn any seafood novice into an expert in fish butchery.


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