Like all fresh produce, seafood products, particularly wild caught seafood, can be seasonal. Seasonality depends on the biology and life history of the animal (for example spawning, migrations and sea conditions) and the management arrangements for its harvest.
All seafood can be purchased fresh as a whole, filleted or cooked product. There are a number of processed products also available including smoked, dried, salted, frozen or canned. The ready-to-eat or convenience range of seafood is also growing. Depending on your needs you will be sure to find a seafood product to do the job!
However, in Australia there is always fresh seafood available. Depending on your location and the species, consumers should take advantage of reduced fish prices when stocks are plentiful. Ask your local fish monger what’s in season. It is always best to purchase fresh seafood because the texture, flavour and quality are consistent. Depending on your dish, a normal portion of seafood is 300-500g whole fish per person and 120-150g filleted fish per person. If it is shellfish you are after, allow 150g flesh only or 250g if the product is whole (in the shell).
To be guaranteed a quality seafood product, ensure that you purchase your seafood from outlets with a high turnover, where the seafood is well iced and the displays are kept between 0° and 1°C. Speciality fish shops, fish markets and farmers markets are excellent places to purchase fresh local seafood.
Use the following tips to purchase a value for money product for your next seafood meal:
- For WHOLE FISH ensure it has bight and lustrous eyes, skin and scales. The flesh should be firm and springy to touch. The gills should always be a bright pink-red colour and the animal should smell pleasantly of the sea without weed or mud.
- For FILLETS and CUTLETS the flesh should be bright and lustrous while firm to touch. There should be no bruising, gaping (separation of the shells in the case of bivalves or flakes in the case of fish) or discolouration of the flesh. If there is dark muscle tissue it should be a pink-red colour. Finally the fillets should have a pleasant sea smell.
- For CRUSTACEANS you should look for brightly coloured and intact shells with no discolouration underneath. There should be a pleasant fresh sea smell and the product should be free from weed and mud.
- For MOLLUSCS look for the products with firm and intact flesh, heads and tentacles for cephalopods and shells that are closed or that close when lightly tapped or squeezed. There should be a pleasant fresh sea smell and the product should be free from weed and mud.