When buying fish and shellfish, freshness is the most important factor. If you don’t know how to buy fish, use your eyes and nose to seek out telltale signs of quality.

  • In a whole fish, the eyes should be bright and clear — not cloudy or sunken in. The gills of fresh fish are deep red, not brownish. The skin should be firm, clear, and bright with no trace of slime.

  • Fish that’s fresh from the ocean smells like the ocean — briny, fresh, and mild. If it smells sour or has a strong “fishy” odor, shop elsewhere.

  • If possible, get fresh-cut fillets from whole fish. Purchase precut fillets only if they’re displayed on a bed of ice, not sealed under plastic, which can trap bacteria and foul odors. Fillets should look moist and lie flat, with no curling at the edges.

Fish falls into two broad categories:

  • Lean fish include mild-tasting sole, flounder, snapper, cod, halibut, and haddock.

  • Oily fish have more intense flavor, higher levels of heart-healthy omega fatty acids, and generally darker flesh. These include bluefish, mackerel, salmon, swordfish, and tuna.

There’s nothing like fresh seafood. And you can find many kinds of quality fish and other seafood at your local supermarket.

  • Bluefish: Rich flavor, especially when fresh and under 2 pounds. Bake or broil.

  • Catfish: Dense, relatively mild fish. Usually cooked in a strong sauce or deep-fried.

  • Cod: Mild-flavored, white, firm flesh. Can be broiled, baked, fried, or braised.

  • Haddock: Meaty, white flesh, mild flavor. Good pan-fried or braised.

  • Porgy: Firm, low-fat, white-fleshed fish with delicate flavor. Excellent grilled or broiled.

  • Tilapia: Farm-raised fish with a mild flavor.

  • Whiting (silver hake): Fine, semifirm white flesh. Subtle and delicious when broiled or pan-fried.

  • Shellfish: Should be firmly closed and odorless when purchased. Eat fresh clams, oysters, and mussels as soon as possible. Store for no more than 24 hours in the refrigerator in a plastic bag poked with small holes, allowing air to circulate. Never overcook shellfish because it gets rubbery.

  • Shrimp: It’s best to purchase shrimp in the shell. Eat shrimp the same day you purchase it.