The Ultimate Seafood Buying Guide

In order to cook the best seafood dish, you need the best ingredients. Therefore, you know how important it is to buy and select high-quality seafood ingredients for your meal. However, how to actually know what is the best of its kind? In this article, we have highlighted everything you need to know on how to properly buy seafood.

This guide is broken down into 2 parts, i.e. general tips and tips on how to buy each general seafood.

General Tips In Buying Seafood

Here are the top 4 tips you need to keep in mind before purchasing any seafood from the local store or market:

1. Put Your Health First

As you know, the oceans are now all polluted with mercury, which is a dangerous neurotoxin that can disrupt brain function and harm the nervous system. Each seafood ingredient contains a different amount of mercury. As a general rule of thumb, smaller fish—think squid, scallops, sardines—contain less mercury than larger varieties like tuna and swordfish, which are higher up the food chain.

2. Eat Local

In almost every town and city, there are 2 types of seafood vendors – farm to fork and boat to fork.

Farm to fork market is the type in which local fishermen supply the ingredients to the farm, which later are sent to the market. Whereas the boat to fork is what is commonly called “community-supported fisheries”, in which seafood ingredients are sold directly by the locals who actually catch those sea animals.

By purchasing directly from the boat to fork type market, you are not only supporting the locals by removing the third-party cost, but also get accessed directly to the source of food and know exactly where they are caught.

3. Choose Organic

Organic seafood are more healthy and sustainable to be purchased than other general farms. These organic farms have lower stocking densities, high standards of environmental performance, and feed their sea animals with sustainable food sourced that are rich in nutrients.

4. Avoid Red-Rated Seafood

Red rated seafood (rated 5 on the Good Fish Guide) represents seafood from the most unsustainable fisheries and fish farming methods. It includes endangered species like European eel and wild northeast Atlantic Halibut and also seafood from damaging fishing and farming methods that need substantial improvement.

That’s all for the general tips in buying seafood. Now let’s dive into how to buy each sea animals for your meal.

A. Buying Fish

The first food in this buying section will explain you how to buy the most commonly consumed type of seafood, i.e. fish. Here, we will talk about salt water fish, both that live in the shallow and deep water.

Steps in purchasing fish are:

1. Check The Eyes

Before even checking the fish body, first check the eyes to make sure they are crystal-clear, plump, wet, and shiny, with no sunken features. Healthy fish will have crystal-clear eyes.

2. Check The Fins

Next area to inspect the fish before buying is the fins and tails. Make sure they are healthy-looking, wet, and intact.

3. Check The Scales

Checking fish scales is one of the ways to make sure that the animals are fresh. When a fish is fresh, the scales will be shiny and firm, a veritable armor against the elements.

B. Buying Crabs

Next up in this seafood buying guide is how to buy crabs properly. Crabs are second to fish in terms of popularity and we bet you can definitely cook many top-class meal using crabs as your ingredients.

Some of the ways in purchasing crabs are:

1. Know The Size

Crabs range in size from small (4 1/2 to 5 inches across) to jumbo or colossal (larger than 6 inches). So make sure you plan what size you need for the meal.

2. Estimate Quantity

Crabs are priced by the crab, by the dozen, or by the half or full bushel (a bushel includes between six to seven dozen large crabs). Some of the sellers, including our Aberdeen seafood restaurant, will price it a bit differently, by including the quarte bushel as well. So make sure you check out with the vendors before buying.

3. Check For Quality

Besides the above 2 steps, the quality of the meat is ultimately what matters when purchasing crabs for your meal.

If you’re buying crab portions in the shell, the exposed meat should look white, and as always, look for signs of freezer burn or blue and gray pockets. If you choose to buy live crabs, look for animals that are moving around in the tank. This indicates a healthy crab, ensuring it will stay alive until you cook it.

C. Buying Shrimps

After crabs, shrimps are the next common seafood that everybody loves.

Some of the shrimps buying tips are:

1. Know The Size

A shrimp’s size is measured by the number of individual shrimp it takes to make up a pound. When you buy them in the market, the general label will be in the form of something like: 18/20, which means there are 18 to 20 shrimps in a pound.

Therefore, the smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp.

2. Check For Freshness

Shrimps are highly perishable and therefore, knowing how to pick the fresh ones is important. The fastest sign to check for freshness is to make sure that there’s no ammonia smell coming form the meat. Another sign to look at is the black spot on the shrimps’ bodies. The more you can spot, the less fresh the shrimps are.

D. Buying Squid

The last seafood we are going to look at here is squid. When purchasing a fresh squid, it should have a clean ocean scent, and it should look shiny and plump, not deflated. The body, or “hood,” of a whole squid is covered with a purplish gray membrane that’s edible but is sometimes removed for looks.


That’s all for all the buying tips and guide you need to know when buying seafood for your meal. It is worth to note that the general tips given in this article can be applied to all types of sea creatures, along with the specific tips for each sea creatures.