Making the most of your seafood

Seafish’€™s Andy Gray takes a look at how to check that the fish and shellfish you are serving to your customers is of the highest quality

En route to providing your diners with a sumptuous seafood dining experience, and ensuring they are being served with the highest-quality products, it is important to undertake a number of quality criteria checks when sourcing, storing and preparing your seafood – the main ones being appearance, odour and flavour.

Chilled products

✥ Odour Seafood products should possess a pleasant ‘marine’ smell – similar to the experience of smelling a bit of fresh seaweed. Such products should not smell strongly ‘fishy’ or have any unpleasant odours – if they have, this a sign that the item in question has already passed its best.

✥ Flesh The flesh of fish should be firm to the touch and shiny in appearance. The flesh of white fish should be translucent and the flesh should be free of any defects such as bruises, blood clots or parasites. There should be no sign of ‘gaping’ – meaning the flesh should be firm and compact and not exhibit any signs of ragged gaps.

✥ Whole fish The skin of whole fish should be bright and shiny, with any colour variation very clear to see. Fish eyes should be convex, with a shiny black pupil. Where gills are still present on a whole fish, these should be bright red in colour. The gut cavity of whole fish should be clean, and the fish should be dry, not sitting in any water – if possible, place the fish on a rack in a tray. Fillets and portions should be stored the same way.

✥ Smoked Smoked fish should look glossy with a fresh, smoky aroma. Smoked fish should always be stored separately from other raw fish in the refrigerator and don’t forget that hot smoked fish is a ‘high care’ product and should be stored accordingly (i.e. such fish should be covered and stored at the top of the refrigerator).

✥ Shellfish When selecting shellfish choose shells which are tightly closed and without any gaps or cracks; discard any shells that are open prior to cooking. When storing molluscs such as mussels, and live crustaceans, they should ideally be covered with a damp cloth or seaweed, and a lid kept on the box to avoid dehydration – this also helps to keep any excessive chill off the products. The ideal storage temperature is 6–8°C, and products should never be put directly in front of any fans blowing chilled air.

Frozen products

✥ Surface The surface of products should be free of any sign of freezer burn, which usually appears in the form of opaque, dry sections on the surface of the product. Any protective ice glaze present on the product should be intact and not cracked.

✥ Frozen state There should be no sign that the product has been partially thawed and then re-frozen. A possible indication of this can often be observed if there is an excess amount of ice crystals loose in packaging or on the product itself.

Eating seafood

The eating qualities of seafood (including texture and flavour) vary widely between different species. With cooked seafood, you are looking for pleasant flavour characteristics for the particular species. If the seafood is spoilt, the flavours will change – typically becoming sour, bitter or rancid over time. As a general rule, the texture of seafood should be firm and juicy. Previously frozen fish that has been frozen and thawed properly should be indistinguishable from fish that has never been frozen. It should be free of any unpleasant odour or flavours such as ‘cold storage’ – which can taste similar to cardboard! If something has gone wrong during the freezing and thawing process, it is often indicated by texture changes – such as the flesh being either too wet and mushy or too dry.

Seafood Quality Assessment Training

If wishing to further study the fascinating world of seafood quality assessment, there are a variety of accessible industry courses offered at all levels. These courses can benefit everyone from chefs to catering managers and quality assurance experts who need to be able to assess the quality of fish upon purchase. The three main areas of training cover:

✥ Introductory – a four-hour course in which candidates can choose either the Raw Schemes course, which covers quality assessment of raw fish, or the Cooked Schemes course, which covers the quality assessment of cooked fish.

✥ Intermediate – a two- or three-day training course which bridges the gap between intermediate and advanced courses.

✥ Advanced – a comprehensive five-day course aimed at managers, supervisors and master fishmongers.

 To find out more about training opportunities in seafood quality assessment visit the Seafood Training Academy website www.seafoodacademy.org

 

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