The Fishionista® Checklist on Buying, Storing, and Freezing Fish!

Fresh sardines

When buying Finfish, I’d like you to use a mindful Fishionista® checklist (below) that will ensure you’re getting the freshest, and highest-quality product.  This will become automatic when shopping at your local grocery store or fish market.   For the moment I’m referring to fresh fish.
I’ve included in this post a mere starter list of finfish that are available depending on your location and the time of year. Get into the habit of asking your local fish markets or seafood departments for the freshest options in your area.  Another words, ‘“do you have any local caught fish?” Buying local supports the fish mongers and the economy. It may vary but up and down the eastern and western seashores you can find local fish. My rule of thumb is to support local first-meaning, in your own back yard, and then work out from there. For example if there is no ‘locally caught’ fish then maybe there is fish from another state or province, and even out of the country, whom you can trust; US-Canada, US-South America. As long as it’s sustainable. Understanding where your fish comes from and if it’s caught responsibly is a big deal. Most north American commercial fishing practices are sustainable due to heavy regulations. No overfishing, no bye-catch, no catch of endangered species and many regulations on equipment used. We also have a great supply of finfish from Europe; Norway, Scotland, Iceland, Spain. If you’re landlocked there is usually a fast delivery system to get fresh fish to your fishmonger quickly. Get to know your fishmonger!
You may also like, Buying and storing Shellfish and this confidence builder, Portioning a Whole Side of Salmon
Let me first share a few tips for buying, storing and freezing finfish. Let’s get you Finfish savvy and off to the market! 


  • “Freshness: Look your fish in the eyes! We want clear, bright eyes; furthermore, red or pink gills, and shiny, moist skin. Always moist skin! Furthermore, avoid fish with cloudy eyes, dull or dry skin, or discolored gills. I would not want to date the latter!
  • Odor:Fresh fish should have a mild, oceanic smell. Ahhh, can you imagine! However, avoid fish with strong, ammonia-like or fishy odors, as it can indicate poor quality or spoilage. A fresh scent always makes a good first impression! 
  • Texture: The flesh of the fish should be firm and elastic to the touch. Additionally, avoid fish that feels soft, mushy, or slimy. Think of your best facial.
  • Whole Fish: If buying a whole fish, check for bright, clear eyes and intact scales. Additionally, the fish should feel heavy for its size. This is especially important to me because I prefer weighty fish!”
  • Fillets or Steaks: Look for fillets or steaks that are moist, firm, and have no discoloration or browning. They should have a fresh appearance and no signs of drying out.  You don’t want fish prunes! 
  • Previously frozen fish: Fresh fish and fish fillets sold as “Previously Frozen” may not have all the characteristics of fresh fish (e.g., bright eyes, firm flesh, red gills, flesh, or bloodlines). However, they should still smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour, or rancid.


  • Refrigeration: Store 1-2 days and keep fresh fish in the coldest part of your refrigerator, ideally at a temperature between 32°F (0°C) and 39°F (4°C).
  • Packaging: Store fish in a sealed container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap to maintain freshness and so the fish won’t dry out.
  • Ice: If storing fish on ice, place it in a shallow dish with a drip tray or rack on top of ice, them place fish on top to prevent it from sitting in water.
  • If you’re not planning to consume the fish within a few days, freezing (link this) is the best option to maintain its quality. Wrap it tightly in moisture-proof bags 


If you followed old methods you’d be freezing your fish in water, but let’s move into the 21st century and save water, time, and space in the ice box!
Softer fleshed fish like sardines and mackerel that are fatty and oily, don’t freeze as well as other fish that are more dense and firm like swordfish and tuna.

  • Freshness: Freeze fresh fish as soon as possible after purchase to retain its freshness. It can be frozen up to six months.
  • Proper Packaging: Wrap the fish tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn and protect it from air exposure.
  • Zip-top bags: Alternatively, you can place the fish in airtight freezer bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing.
  • Labeling: Clearly label the fish with the date of freezing to keep track of its storage time.
  • Freezer Temperature: Set your freezer to a temperature of 0°F (-18°C) or below to maintain optimal quality.
  • Thawing: To thaw fish place it in the refrigerator overnight, or for same-day method run the fish under cold water with wrapper on and turning it until thawed. You can also achieve this by placing it in an ice bath in the sink for an hour. The latter two methods are the fastest. DO NOT THAW AT ROOM TEMPERATURE. DO NOT THAW IN MICROWAVE.
  • Fresh whole fish: Wash, gut and clean well. You can freeze fish with bone in and skin on.


Michael-Ann holding a tray of salmon portions



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