What To Look For When Buying Fish + The Best Way To Cook With Frozen Fish

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Buying and cooking fish can be intimidating, so a lot of people just leave it to the pros—but "Top Chef" Richard Blais is here to help you feel comfortable cooking fish at home with his pro tips. (Spoiler alert: don't be afraid of frozen fish, he says!)


1. Ask the person behind the counter any questions that you have.

2. Use all of your senses. "Use your eyes and use your nose," Richard says.

What fresh fish should look like: "If you're looking at fish fillets on the counter, they want to look moist and wet and you want to see them glisten," Richard says, "They want to look shiny. Fish swim in the water, so they want to look wet and moist. The skin should look nice and shiny. If the fish is looking dry, it's probably just been sitting at the counter for too long. It's not going to be that fresh."


"Make sure that fillet is not broken—that the fillet itself doesn't have cracks in it," Richard says. "Fish is so delicate," Richard explains. "The muscle structure of a fish is so delicate, you want to handle it like a baby. If the fish gets over-handled, it's going to create those cracks [and] it's not going to be easy to cook."


MORE: How To Cook Salmon

What fresh fish should smell like: "Really fresh seafood does not smell fishy," the "Top Chef" explains. "If it does smell, it should smell like a fresh cucumber or a fresh ocean breeze. If you're getting a strong fishy smell, that fish is probably not at its prime. If the fishmonger won't let you smell it, they can smell it—and you can just gauge their reaction to it."

4. Don't be afraid of frozen fish. "Frozen fish is fine," he says. "You want to look for something that was frozen at sea. These big boats, they go out [and] as soon as they catch the fish, they're actually freezing it right there—so it's very, very fresh. I love, now, you can buy fish in packages [with] each fillet individually packaged."

Rach's tip: Always try to buy sustainable seafood!

Richard and his family actually used frozen-at-sea, sustainable cod for their Fish Sticks—which brings him to his tip for cooking with frozen fish.

Crispy Fish Sticks
Rachael Ray Show


Richard's top tip for cooking with frozen fish? Bread it! (Like he does with his fish sticks.) "It's a great way to use frozen fish," he says, "because frozen fish might be a little bit more moist, because it's been frozen. That breading on the fish really protects it and makes it easier to cook. Plus, who doesn't love crispy anything?" Richard says you can fry breaded fish in olive oil or clarified butter—or you can bake them. (He gives instructions for both in his Fish Sticks recipe.)

For more breaded fish recipes, try Rach's Swordfish Cutlets, Salt + Vinegar Potato Chip Fish Fillets or Sheet Pan Fish + Chips.

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