Seafood Buyer's Guide

What you need to know about the best fish and shellfish to cook at home.

Show: Chuck's Day Off

6. Salmon 
Salmon is versatile, meaty, easy to cook and particularly heart-healthy, due to its high level of omega-3 fatty acids. Buy salmon whole, as steaks or fillets and try it roasted, grilled, sautéed or poached. It may be cooked with or without its edible skin.

There are two general types of salmon, Atlantic and Pacific, with the main difference being that Atlantic salmon is farm-raised and Pacific salmon is wild. You'll find fresh Atlantic salmon (sometimes sold as Norwegian because it is farmed there) available across the country year-round. The quality is likely to be good because farm-raised salmon can be harvested and shipped within 24 hours, all in a controlled environment.

There are five species of Pacific salmon: king (also called Chinook), coho, sockeye (also called red), chum and pink. These wild varieties are most available in the summer months. Be sure to check for freshness since wild fish have been out of the water longer in variable environments.

Similar fish include Arctic char and steelhead trout, but other meaty fish such as striped bass, swordfish and tuna may often be substituted.

7. Sea Bass 
Sea bass are small fish that live in the western Atlantic between Florida and Cape Cod. Unlike other bass, like striped bass and white bass, sea bass is only found in the ocean. Several types of "bass," like Chilean sea bass, are not really bass at all, but fish renamed to enhance marketability.

Also called black sea bass and blackfish, the sea bass is a stout-bodied bottom feeder with grayish-black coloring and a white belly. The flesh is white and somewhat firm with tight, small flakes and a delicate flavor.

They are usually sold as 1-1/2 to 2-pound whole fish, and sometimes sold alive at Asian markets. Look for fish with a deep color, bright eyes and pink (not brown) gills.

Whole sea bass is good steamed or roasted (try it with Asian seasonings). Fillets can be sautéed or broiled, and they are often baked in parchment paper or foil packets. Both whole fish and fillets are good fried. 
Similar fish include snapper, striped bass, cod or grouper.

8. Swordfish 
Swordfish is a mild-tasting, white-fleshed fish with a meaty texture. It is sold exclusively in steaks. Its mild taste makes it a particularly good choice for those who are unsure if they like fish. Reddish areas have a stronger flavor and can be cut off.

Swordfish is particularly good grilled, either as a steak or kebabs, and it's also delicious broiled and sautéed. Trim off the tough and inedible skin before or after cooking.

Swordfish is often sold frozen and the quality can be good, but make sure that the reddish areas are red, not brown. Substitute other meaty fish such as tuna, halibut, mahi mahi or salmon.

9. Trout 
There are many species of trout, and they are all smaller freshwater members of the salmon family. Diet and habitat determine the color of its delicate flesh, which ranges from ivory to pinkish.

Wild-caught trout tastes best while the quality of farm-raised trout varies. It can have good flavor and firm texture, but some farm-raised trout can be mushy and have a muddy taste. Steelhead trout and Arctic char are saltwater relatives of trout that are also farm-raised.

At the market, look for a layer of transparent slime covering whole trout; the more slippery the fish, the fresher it is. Sold whole or filleted, it is best sautéed, roasted, broiled or grilled. Try giving it a light dusting of flour and a quick sauté, and top with brown butter, lemon and capers.

Salmon can be substituted in most recipes.

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