Buying fresh fish

Odour: Seafood products should possess a pleasant 'marine' smell - similar to the aroma experienced from smelling fresh seaweed. They should not smell strongly 'fishy' or have any unpleasant odours - if they do, it is a sign that it may already have passed its best.

Flesh: The flesh of fish should be firm to the touch and shiny in appearance. The flesh of white fish should be translucent and the flesh should be free of any defects such as bruises, blood clots or parasites. There should be no sign of 'gaping' - meaning the flesh should be firm and compact and not exhibit any signs of ragged gaps. When buying fillets look out for neatly trimmed fillets and a white translucent appearance.

Whole fish: The skin of whole fish should be bright and shiny, with any colour variation very clear to see. Fish eyes should be convex, with a shiny black pupil. Where gills are still present on a whole fish, these should be bright red in colour. The gut cavity of whole fish should be clean, and the fish should be dry, not sitting in any water.

Smoked fish: Smoked fish should look glossy and possess a fresh smoky aroma. Smoked fish should always be stored separately from raw fish in the refrigerator. It's also important to remember that hot smoked fish is a 'high care' product and should be kept covered and stored at the top of the refrigerator.

Shellfish: When selecting shellfish, choose shells which are tightly closed and without any gaps or cracks - discard any shells that are open prior to cooking. When storing molluscs such as mussels, and live crustaceans, they should be covered with a damp cloth (or seaweed), with a lid kept on the box to avoid dehydration - this also helps to keep any excessive chill off the products. The ideal storage temperature is 6-8°C, but products should never be put directly in front of any fans blowing chilled air. Always pick up live crustaceans by the body, not the claws or tail, and treat them carefully - dropping, throwing or skidding any storage boxes across the floor will stress and weaken the shellfish. Oysters should be stored cup-side down to retain their fluid.