How a Fishmonger Can Help You Eat Smarter

Intimidated by the fish and seafood market? Here's how a fishmonger can help you eat more economically and sustainably.

Cooking seafood can be scary. Because it has the perception of being pricey, many of us are a bit afraid we might screw up preparing it. But fishmongers can help. Not only can they help you get over your cooking fears by offering tips and tricks, they're actually happy to guide you to budget-friendly buys. They can also share ideas on what's in season and exactly how long to cook fillets or whole fish.

Choose What’s in Season

Unlike meat or poultry, certain fish go in and out of season. Ask your fishmonger what fish are currently plentiful and the tastiest. Spring means larger fish (like salmon and halibut) can be on the thinner side, but they will be fat and delicious by summer.

Ask About Unfamiliar Fish Species

Less popular fish are often more budget-friendly. “As fish like grouper has been getting more expensive, we recommend barramundi as a good substitute. Ocean trout is similar to salmon,” says Tala Carr, owner of Tom’s Seafood & Specialties in Lakewood, Colorado. In the land-locked Midwest, Bob Mepham, owner of Bob’s Seafood in St. Louis, recommends Sheepshead (a lake fish), Black Drum (from the Atlantic coast; similar to Red Snapper), Kingklip (from oceans in the Southern Hemisphere; often caught secondarily as bycatch), and Spanish Mackerel or Canadian Atlantic Mackerel.

Another less-expensive option for seafood is to buy smaller. “Smaller Alaskan and Canadian crabs and crab legs still taste the same as the larger versions. And smaller shrimp may be even more satisfying because you get a greater number of smaller shrimp (and more bites) for your money, than jumbo shrimp,” says Mepham.

Find Out Which Farmed Fish Are Good Options

Today there are many good domestically farmed fish options. “We provide a lot of info on sustainability, and farmed versus wild. It’s a common misperception that farmed fish is "bad". Trout has been successfully farmed for over 100 years in Idaho. Some of our salmon comes from sustainable farms in Chili. Several Australian companies have very strict standards for their Barramundi Which Is Farmed In Asian Waters,” Says Carr.

Request Help With Prepping

Fishmongers are happy to fillet whole fish, or remove skin and bones upon request. Surprisingly, both fish shop and supermarket-fish-counter staff will often cook, peel and devein shrimp, steam live lobsters, or help plan menus for special occasions. Mepham noted, “We will also help carry packages to your car if we’re not busy!”

Learn to Cook Fillets Perfectly

Tell your fishmonger your fears about cooking fish, but also tell him/her if you are comfortable grilling, baking, frying or sautéing. They can match fish to your preferred technique. But remember that if you cook fish the same way all the time, you may not taste the different flavor profiles and textures that shine in different species. Carr notes that one of her favorite ways to make meaty, firm swordfish is in a curry.

Eating seafood regularly can improve diet and significantly improve overall health. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating seafood two times weekly. Check out these healthy recipes:

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