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Beginner’s Guide to Seafood

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Seafood isn’t complicated… when you understand the basics. As a longtime chef and Executive Chef for Omaha Steaks, I love the versatility and rich flavors of seafood. And I will never turn down a steak and seafood dinner. I know seafood can be intimidating, but today I’ll share what beginners need to know to select and cook seafood with confidence.

How to Choose Seafood

When choosing seafood, consider your personal flavor preferences and the cooking application you will be using. Seafood and shellfish vary greatly in texture, flavor, and consistency. From mild to strong, delicate to steak-like consistency, the choices are endless, and so are the cooking methods. Select a steaky fillet if you plan to cook it on the grill. Flakier cuts are better baked, pan-fried, or used in recipes. Once you understand seafood flavor profiles and how you want to utilize it, you can decide what seafood is best for your recipe.

Beginner’s Guide to Seafood

Know How to Shop for Fresh Seafood

Shopping for fresh seafood at the grocery store requires your due diligence to ensure your fish is actually fresh, especially if you don’t live in a coastal region. Follow these guidelines to use sight, smell, and feel when selecting fish.

Sight: If the fish is whole, the eyes of the fish should be bright and clean, not cloudy. There should be no visible signs of bruising and the skin should look shiny. With fish filets, the blood lines should be bright red with no visible signs of browning on the edges of the fish.

Smell: Seafood should not smell offensive, fishy, ammonia-like, or rotten. A mild-pleasant or slight ocean smell is best.

Feel: The fish should have a good rebound on the flesh when you press down on it and the flesh shouldn’t be slimy.

Know How to Shop for Frozen Seafood

Often, the “fresh” seafood in the grocery cases has been previously frozen and is now thawing and degrading each minute that goes by. That’s why I say frozen is better than fresh.

When purchasing frozen seafood, inspect the packaging and don’t buy if it is open, torn, or crushed. Look at the seafood for signs of freezer burn, including discoloration of the fish, ice crystals or clumping of the pieces of seafood.

Shop Frozen Seafood for Consistently High-Quality 

Purchasing frozen seafood from trusted vendors provides excellent flavor and higher quality than fresh fish that is more than 2-3 days old. That’s because most frozen seafood is frozen the same day it is brought off the boat preserving the seafood at the peak of freshness.

At Omaha Steaks, othe vacuum-sealed packaging retains the moisture, juices, and flavor of the seafood, and prevents oxygen exposure that may damage the delicate fish. They deliver frozen seafood preserved at the peak of freshness and take the work out of shopping for the “freshest” seafood. You can be sure that every shipment is delivered the way nature intended.

Thaw Seafood the Right Way

The best way to thaw frozen seafood is by keeping it in the vacuum-sealed packaging and placing it in a bowl of cold water; changing the cold water every 20 to 30 minutes or until completely defrosted. Alternatively, if you plan your meal in advance, you can thaw frozen seafood overnight in the refrigerator.

What to Avoid When Thawing Seafood

Don’t thaw with the seafood exposed directly to water; the seafood will retain water and get waterlogged. And never defrost seafood in hot water or at room temperature on the countertop – it will increase the chance of bacterial growth.

Cook Thawed Seafood That Day

For the best quality and flavor, cook your seafood the day it is thawed. Seafood is delicate and it’s best enjoyed at the peak of freshness. Once seafood is defrosted, it begins to degrade, so for the optimal eating experience, cook it as soon as possible after thawing.

The Basics of Seasoning and Marinating Seafood

It’s important to know when and how to season your seafood. Seasoning is important and will bring out the unique flavors in your seafood. However, seasoning or marinating too long before you cook it can start to “cook” and break down the delicate flesh. Here are the basics of seasoning your seafood.

Know When to Season Your Seafood

It’s best to season your seafood as close as you can to cooking. For fish fillets, that’s ideally no more than 15-20 minutes before cooking. For whole fish, you can season closer to an hour before cooking to allow the seasonings to penetrate deep inside the fish.

Don’t Over-Season Your Seafood

Know your seafood type before seasoning. The natural sweet mild flavor of flaky white fish, including flounder, cod, halibut, or snapper, can easily be overpowered by too much seasoning. Fish that have a firm, steak-like texture, like swordfish, salmon or tuna can stand up to more aggressive seasoning. Try Omaha Steaks Signature Seafood Rub with Citrus & Herb for a perfect blend of flavors.

Be Cautious with Marinades

If you plan to marinate seafood, I suggest quick marinades; 30 minutes to 2 hours. If there is a salt or acid (citrus fruits, vinegar, or alcohol/wine) in the marinade, it can start “cooking” a seafood and make the flesh mushy. If you do plan to marinate seafood for longer than 2 hours, start with olive oil, fresh herbs, and spices, then add an acid or citrus the last 15-20 minutes. Add salt immediately before cooking.

Try These Marinade Recipes

Not sure how to season your seafood? Add incredible flavor to your seafood with four unique marinade recipes:

    • Maple Bourbon
    • Citrus
    • Thai BBQ
    • Honey Garlic
Beginner’s Guide to Seafood

Seafood Marinating Times

Follow these guidelines for marinading times for best results.

  • Shrimp, Scallops: 15-30 minutes marinating time
  • Flaky Fish Fillet: 30 minutes marinating time
  • Firm Fish Fillet: 30 minutes-1 hour marinating time
  • Fish Steak: 1-2 hours marinating time

 

Group shot of seafood, including crab legs, lobster, ahi tuna, shrimp, cod and halibut
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Thai BBQ Seafood Marinade

Savory and flavorful seafood marinade
Prep Time5 mins
Course: Main Course
Keyword: Thai BBQ Seafood Marinade
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, minced

Instructions

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pour marinade over fish. Marinate fish, flipping halfway through marinating time. Remove fish from marinade and discard any remaining marinade. 

 

Group shot of seafood, including crab legs, lobster, ahi tuna, shrimp, cod and halibut
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Maple Bourbon Seafood Marinade

A savory, sweet seafood marinade
Prep Time5 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Maple Bourbon Seafood Marinade
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pour marinade over fish.  Marinate fish, flipping halfway through marinating time.  Remove fish from marinade and discard any remaining marinade.

 

Group shot of seafood, including crab legs, lobster, ahi tuna, shrimp, cod and halibut
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Citrus Basil Seafood Marinade

A light, refreshing seafood marinade
Prep Time5 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Citrus Basil Seafood Marinade
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil

Instructions

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pour marinade over fish. Marinate fish, flipping halfway through marinating time. Remove fish from marinade and discard any remaining marinade.

 

Group shot of seafood, including crab legs, lobster, ahi tuna, shrimp, cod and halibut
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Honey Garlic Seafood Marinade

Sweet and tangy seafood marinade
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Honey Garlic Seafood Marinade
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pour marinade over fish. Marinate fish, flipping halfway through marinating time. Remove fish from marinade and discard any remaining marinade. 

Cook Your Seafood with Confidence

When cooking seafood, there are many great ways to impart flavor, including:

  • Pan sear
  • Bake
  • Deep fry
  • Grill
  • Broil
  • Air fry

Every Omaha Steaks seafood product includes chef-tested cooking instructions giving you the confidence to cook at home. You can also refer to their comprehensive seafood cooking chart or Omaha Steaks mobile app with a built-in cooking timer.

Comprehensive Seafood Cooking Guides:

Know Safe Cooking Temperatures

For most seafood, it can be safely ingested when cooked to a medium doneness, reaching an internal temperature of 145°F. Overcooking can dry out your fish resulting in a rubbery texture.  Follow the Omaha Steaks comprehensive seafood cooking chart for perfectly cooked seafood every time.

Know When Seafood is Done

The best method to determine doneness of your seafood is to measure the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. When it reaches medium doneness of 145° it is ready to enjoy. If you don’t have a thermometer, there are other ways to help you determine when you seafood is fully cooked.

  • Shrimp: the meat turns pink and firm
  • Oysters, mussels, and clams: the shells will open during cooking; throw out the ones that don’t open
  • Lobster and crab: the outer shell turns bright red and the flesh will be white or opaque
  • Fish fillets: the flesh becomes white or opaque and firm, but still moist
  • White fish fillets: the meat becomes white and flaky
  • Scallops: color changes from translucent to opaque

Try Seafood in Recipes

Seafood is an excellent protein in stir-fries, soups, stews, chowders, and even sous vide. Cook up my delicious shrimp scampi for a quick and easy family meal. Or try one of these Omaha Steaks seafood recipes.

Frequently Asked Questions about Seafood

When and how do you remove the skin from fish?

Skin adds flavor, contrast in texture, and a barrier to help overcooking the fish. All Omaha Steaks fish fillets are delivered ready to cook and won’t require additional preparation. However, if you purchase from another purveyor and the skin is rubbery, very thick, or not properly scaled, you may want to remove it. The best way to skin a fish is to cut off about ½” of flesh leaving that skin under the cut intact. To remove the skin, use a paper towel, grasp the edge of the exposed skin and run a sharp knife between the flesh and skin. Using a smooth, slow sawing motion, carefully remove the skin, making sure not to cut into or damage the flesh.

How can I avoid overcooking seafood?

Overcooked seafood will become dry and rubbery. Here are a few tips to help you cook perfect, juicy seafood every time:

  • Don’t over-marinade or season too early
  • Never leave seafood unattended while cooking
  • Monitor internal temperature using a digital thermometer
  • Remove seafood from heat when internal temperature reaches 145°F
  • Allow seafood to rest 2-3 minutes before slicing
  • Follow the Omaha Steaks seafood cooking chart for the perfect results every time

How to do I cook fish without it sticking?

Understanding the basics of seafood will help you choose a suitable cooking method for your seafood. Flakier fish fillets are more delicate and not suitable for grilling. With all fish fillets, the most important tip is to not flip your fish too early. This is how fillets fall apart. If you need to scrape or pry the fish at all to get your spatula underneath, it’s not ready to flip.

These seafood basics will help take the guesswork out of selecting seafood and help you cook your favorites in confidence. Stock your freezer with the best – carefully selected seafood and shellfish from Omaha Steaks, delivered conveniently to your door and backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Beginner’s Guide to Seafood

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