How to Pick a Fish

Tucker Ricchio, Truffle Shuffle Head Studio Chef, butcher, and all around culinary badass, has worked in some of the world’s top kitchens, including as a Sous Chef at the two Michelin-starred Acquerello, all while continuing to work at a butcher shop in her free time.

In other words, she knows a thing or two about picking out the finest ingredients, particularly when it comes to spotting the freshest fish!

I spoke with Chef Tuck about the go-to signs for how to pick a fish. Or, in her words, “peek a feesh.”

Should you buy whole or fillet?

There are pros and cons to each, so it really depends on your priorities.

The more the fish is cut up, the more exposure it has to bacteria and the quicker it will age. If your primary aim is the freshest fish possible, consider buying whole and butchering the fish yourself (keep an eye out for Chef Tyler’s fish butchery classes to learn how).

Or, simply bake or grill the fish whole for a nice, festive presentation–though you’ll have less control over the final result, as fish varies by size. While you may wind up overcooking the tail to get that perfect cook on the belly, at the end of the day it’s a super fresh fish that will still be delicious!

As an added bonus, a whole fish tends to be cheaper by the pound. That said, you really can’t beat the ease of buying a pre-cut fish fillet.

Should you buy farmed or fresh?

Again, it depends on the fish! While you can get some absolutely delicious and interesting wild caught fish, like trout or bass, you don’t want to sleep on the farmed fish just because it sounds slightly less sexy.

Fish farmers have the utmost control over the fish’s environment, controlling for variables like toxins and diet, often yielding incredible results. Ōra King salmon from New Zealand, for example, is some of the best fish in the world, achieved through farming and breeding techniques.

How to Select a Whole Fish
Identifying a super fresh whole fish is slightly easier, as it has some key indicators that are lost once it’s broken down.

  • Clear Eyes: A fresh fish’s eyes look more like windows to the soul, and less like frosted glass. The eyes should be clear, not cloudy.
  • Clean Gills: While some natural clear slime is okay, the gills should look fresh with no gunk or mucus present.
  • Smell: To state the obvious, the fish should smell fresh! It should have an ocean smell, not a rotten funk. Your natural instinct should take care of this one–trust your gut!

Quick Tips 
Whether whole or fillet, these are the signs that your fish is fresh.

  • Firm Skin: If you’re buying skin-on, look for metallic, shiny, and firm. The skin dulls and gets mushier as it ages, so a nice firm smooth skin is a green light.
  • A Nice Bounce: When you press on the meat, it should bounce right back. If you’re still staring at your fingerprint, the fish failed the bounce test and is probably on its way out.
  • Just Ask: The person who knows more than me, more than you, more than even the top Michelin-starred chefs in the world, is the butcher.
Don’t be afraid to ask when they got the fish in and if they have any recommendations for the freshest fish they have in stock. Ideally you live in an area with a quality purveyor, but even the people at the fish counter at your local grocery store should be able to guide you in the right direction.


As an alternative, you can always order the world’s best fish from us! ;) Check out all of our delicious upcoming seafood experiences here

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.