HOW TO CHOOSE THE FRESHEST FISH
HEY LOVELY! Before I decided to cook my Whole Salt Wrapped Oven Baked Nannygai (Bight Redfish) which I shared here, I definitely had to ask a few questions about choosing the best, freshest fish I could.
With a little help from my Daddy-o and my local fish monger here's what I learnt, which may save you some time.
Where Do I Buy Reputable Seafood?
If you haven’t caught it yourself or you don’t know any keen fishermen (le sigh) then your best place will be at a seafood market.
Ideally that means waking up early and getting down to the wharfs when the freshest of fish are delivered straight off the boats but if you’re not tempted to wake up at 3am then try your local markets which are open at normal people hours. Expect to pay more because of their overhead and transportation costs but what you’re really paying for is convenience.
If you live local to Perth then you’re in luck because I know the best place. I will drive an hour or so to buy my seafood from Innaloo Seafresh Fish Markets on Scarborough Beach Rd. If you ask nicely they may give you a foam box and a little bag of packing ice or you can be prepared by bringing your own cold bags or eski.
How Do I Choose The Freshest Whole Fish?
Your very first indicator regarding freshness and quality of the stock will be the aroma in the market. You should be able to smell the ocean and inhale a cold light fresh quality in the air. It will be a pleasant experience. Older fish will have a stronger smell and a heavier odour will linger. Each fillet of fish or any whole fish you use should always smell light and fresh. If the market smells disgusting and rotten then walk straight out. Seafresh always smells clean and fresh. It was the first thing I noticed.
The quickest and less hands-on approach for selecting the freshest fish is to check the eyes. Fresh fish will have prominent, bright, moist eyes and become sunken, grey and shrivelled (drying out) with age and exposure.
Smaller fish such as herring will have clear eyes and become cloudy with age.
If you don’t mind being a little more hands on you can use the colour of the gills as another indicator. Fresh fish will have a deep blood red/deep dark coloured set of gills, (a colour similar to fresh kidneys or liver) fading to a brownish red and inedible fish will have pale grey/white gills.
The skin and scales will have a metallic pearlescent shine and the scales will be tightly sealed together with a stomach that is shiny and undamaged and a tight closed anal opening.
As fish ages it will become dull, the scales will begin to loosen, shedding easily and the anal opening will discolour and protrude.
The body of a fresh fish is firm and has a specific texture and appearance. When gently pressed the fish should release back whilst aging fish will start to decompose becoming soft, grey and lose its elasticity (you don’t want play dough).
How Do I Choose The Right Sized Fish To Feed All My Guests?
This little tip came from my fish monger at Seafresh.
A Whole Fish (with the head and tail still attached)
Ratio – 400 grams per adult serving
Ratio – 200 grams per adult serving
Once you have chosen your whole fish, ask your fishmonger to gut and descale it for you.
How Long Do I Cook A Whole Fish For?
Allow for approximately 20 minutes per kilogram
How Do I Know When A Whole Fish Is Cooked?
There are a few ways to check if your fish is cooked.
Pierce the skin into the thickest part of the fillet (towards the head) and watch for a clear juice to run (much like chicken). Excuse your fingers in front of guests, and touch the juice to feel if it is warm, and then opt for a slight taste.
You can also open the cavity and look inside towards the backbone. The white flesh of a cooked fish will start to slightly shrink away from the bones. You could also remove a flake for a quick taste test.
Alternately, you can buy a cooking thermometer to pierce into the thickest part of the flesh. The temperature should be 70°C / 160°F.
What To Do If My Fish Still Isn't Cooked?
Don't panic. Quickly move your fish back to the baking tray, cover with alfoil and cook for a further few minutes.
Tips & Ideas
Fish cools down quickly so warm your dinner plates on a separate tray in the oven 15 minutes prior to removing the fish.
Prepare moist towelettes or a small bowl of warm water with a slice of lemon for guests to rinse their fingers as they remove the fish bones.
Question - Do you have any extra tips for cooking a whole fish?