What It Means When You See Gaps In The Flesh Of The Fish You're Buying

Raw salmon steaks
Raw salmon steaks - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

If you plan on cooking fish fillet and are out shopping for the best fish, the appearance of the flesh can tell you a lot about its quality and how it was handled before reaching the display case. Knowing what to look out for can help you make better choices and ensure you're bringing home the best possible seafood for your table. For example, a common concern among discerning buyers is the presence of gaps in the flesh of the fish. These gaps, often seen as splits or pits in the muscle fibers, are not just cosmetic flaws; they're a telltale sign that the fish was not handled with care.

Fish flesh is delicate, and rough handling during catching, processing, or transportation can cause the muscles to tear apart, creating these gaps. This mishandling can happen at any stage from the boat to the store, but the result is the same: a compromised fillet. When cooked, fish with this type of damage tends to become mushy — losing the firm, flaky texture that is characteristic of fresh, well-handled fish. As a result, purchasing this kind of fish will lead to a subpar dish and a less satisfying eating experience.

Read more: 15 Different Ways To Cook Fish

Other Signs Of Freshness And Quality In Fish Fillets

Salmon fillet on ice
Salmon fillet on ice - Taras Shparhala/Shutterstock

Beyond the obvious signs of gaps on fish fillets, several other indicators of freshness and quality can guide your selection. Firstly, assess the color of the fish. Fresh fish fillets should have a vibrant, consistent color without any browning or reddish spots. These color changes can indicate age or improper handling. The flesh should also be moist, but not excessively wet or slimy, as a slippery surface can be a sign of old fish or spoilage.

The smell is another critical factor. Fresh fish should have a clean, mild scent reminiscent of the ocean. A strong, fishy odor is a red flag, indicating that the fish is not fresh and may have started to spoil. Additionally, the texture of the fish fillet should be firm to the touch and bounce back when lightly pressed. If the flesh feels soft or leaves an indentation, it may be past its prime.

Lastly, look at the packaging and storage. Fish should be properly refrigerated or displayed on a thick bed of fresh, crushed ice that is not melting, which helps maintain its freshness and quality until it's time to cook. By paying attention to these indicators, you can ensure that you bring home a fish fillet that is fresh, high-quality, and ready to deliver the delicious meal you expect.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.