Is this fish fresh?

I got a call last night asking how to tell if the fish they had defrosted and left in the refrigerator for a few days was still safe to eat.

Here is what I was taught by a professor many years ago on fish freshness.

“I look for in a fish what I look for in a date.  Clear eyes, red gills, tight scales, firm flesh, and no odor.”

I have never forgotten those parameters. 🙂  Whole fish should have clear eyes, not cloudy.  The gills should be bright red, not pale pink.  The scales should be tight to the body and not flaking off.  There should be a faint ‘smell of the ocean’ but not a ‘fishy’ smell, and the flesh should be firm to the touch.

With the thawed fish in question they were dealing with fillets, so the only tests they could do were the odor and firm flesh tests.  They told me it smelled fine. I told them to lightly press their finger into the flesh of the fish and see what it did.  If the flesh bounces back, it is fresh and good.  If a dimple remains where your finger was, you’ve got some mushy fish flesh and chances are it is not as fresh as you want it to be.

(Now in my house, that would mean that the dogs and cat were in for a treat for dinner.  They love meats that have gone a little too far off for humans to consume.  In their case, they threw the fish out.)

So remember, when selecting fresh fish or a date:

Clear eyes, red gills, tight scales, firm flesh, and no odor!

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