Eating seafood dishes can be an incredible taste experience. The flavors are unlike anything else on earth. The waters where your fish was sourced suffuse your entrees, appetizers, and hors d’oeuvres with a fresh essence.
It doesn’t matter if you buy your fish fresh or frozen – you can still get the best of the best. This will result in superior flavor for your restaurant dishes.
Learn how to choose seafood for your restaurant and get the best bang for your buck.
How to Choose Seafood for the Best-Tasting Dishes
For the uninitiated, picking restaurant seafood can be a bit intimidating. Use these tips to navigate the waters.
Tips for Purchasing Fresh Seafood
Purchasing the catch-of-the-day can be beneficial for your business in a lot of ways. Customers respond well to “fresh seafood” advertising, and it appeals to the growing “eat local” movement.
Especially if you live in a coastal town, perusing your local fish market could be a great method to support the local economy and sustainable fishing. These are positive aspects diners like to hear about and can be a great draw for your restaurant.
Here’s what to look for when purchasing fresh fish:
1. Fish should smell fresh and salty, like seawater or even cucumbers. If they smell fishy, sour, or have an ammonia scent, stay far away.
2. The flesh should be firm and unmarked, except for the animal’s natural coloring. When you touch the flesh, it should spring back. Avoid fish with flesh that looks brown.
3. Check that the eyes are clear and slightly bulging. Don’t purchase if they look cloudy.
In general, when purchasing fresh fish, look for seasonal catches. These will be readily available and taste delicious. For example, some varieties of salmon are available fresh in Alaska during the summer months. Freshly-caught blue mussels are available from January to March in the Pacific Northwest.
Research your area and find out what’s in season during each month of the year. Seasonal menus are a big trend with restaurants, so you could tap into this market and emphasize local, seasonal, sustainable cuisine.
Tips for Buying Frozen Seafood
If you need to buy your product in bulk or require flexibility for the day you cook it, frozen seafood may be the better option.
In fact, frozen fish can taste just as fresh as varieties purchased at a fish market. This is because they can be flash frozen right after they’re caught. This is the ideal choice if your restaurant is located far inland or at a distance from lakes and rivers. The fish will retain its flavor and texture right up until you cook it.
Plus, if you purchase frozen varieties, you won’t have to deal with availability issues. These can limit your fresh options due to weather, the size of catches, or ocean temperature variability.
What to look for when purchasing frozen seafood:
1. Make sure the fish is frozen completely. The package should be intact without any crushed or torn parts.
2. There should be no frost or ice crystals (A.K.A. freezer burn) on the fish.
3. You shouldn’t notice any odor.
4. The fish should be securely wrapped in vapor and moisture-proof material.
5. You should avoid fish located above the freezer line in the store. This area of storage is not cold enough to keep the seafood frozen solid.
For example, if a bin-style freezer case is stocked with frozen fish to overflowing, some of the packages will be resting above the freezer line. They’ll probably be partially thawed as a result, too.
Bottom line: Before you hit the freezer section or the fish market, do your homework. You’ll be able to nab the best fish available that suits your restaurant’s needs.
Consider the Pros and Cons of Seafood Types for Your Business
The right seafood to purchase for your restaurant will depend on many aspects.
Frozen fish gives you the most options and flexibility, but fresh fish can be a huge draw for customers.
Many people say that freshly-caught fish tastes better, but the idea of eating the catch-of-the-day can easily influence this opinion. In general, frozen fish can taste just as good if it’s prepared correctly. In fact, badly-prepared fresh fish will never win over superbly-prepared frozen fish.
Think about the customers you are targeting, your cooking style, and the goal of your restaurant. The seafood you serve can match up if you choose judiciously.