When Does the Fish Come In?

I Never Buy Fish Except on Tuesdays

We stopped by the grocery store after lunch to pick up some juice.  As trips to the store often go, our quick trip turned into an hour-long buying orgy as we suddently realized how badly we needed asparagus, broccoli, red bell peppers, and chicken.  Oddly, enough, all of these things were on sale.  Funny how that works out, huh?

Anyway, I have a hankering to poach some salmon and stopped by the fish counter to check the prices on fish.  Then I walked off without buying anything, much to the surprise of both my wife and the poor fishmonger who gave me sort of a funny look.

“Aren’t you going to buy anything?” Mrs. WellDone asked.

“Nope, fresh fish shipments come into Kansas City on Tuesdays.  That stuff has been sitting around for five days,” I replied.  (And truth be told, it kind of looked like it had been sitting around for a few days, but that’s another story.)

The Moral of the Story…

As you have doubtless read before, the ingredients make the dish.  To get the best possible dish, you need the best possible ingredients.  Or in other words, better fish, better fish.  Fish that has been sitting around either in the freezer or the fishmonger’s counter is pretty much never going to taste as fresh as fish bought the day it has been brought into the city.

So I urge you to find out what day(s) the seafood comes into your city and try to buy it and serve it on those days or perhaps the day after. 

How?  Just ask the fishmonger.  And be careful about how he/she answers.  You want to know the day the store got the fish, not when the store pulled it from the freezer or anything.  You can also ask local chefs.  That’s how I found out.

But I Live on the Coast!

I’ve heard that doesn’t matter.  Living all my life landlocked in the middle part of the country doesn’t exactly make me an expert in the fishing business on the coast, but as I understand it, the fish still goes from boat to processor to warehouse before ending up at the grocer.  Sure, coastal fish doesn’t have to travel as far to reach your shelves as it does mine (unless you are, say, buying Maine lobster in California or Pacific salmon in New York), but I am pretty sure the flow of fish to store doesn’t happen every day anywhere.

Bonus Tip when Buying Fish

One other thing.  No matter, where you live: central US or coastal US, beware fish where the the narrower end has been tucked under the wider.  That’s sometimes a fishmonger trick to hide fish that is drying out (and hence don’t buy it.)  Sometimes fishmongers fold the narrow end to make the fish look pretty, though, so what you want to do is ask to examine that part.

If the narrow end is dry, discolored, or smells fishy, change your menu plans.  Old fish tastes fishy.  You don’t want that.

Okay, get to eating fish and enjoy!


  1. Not sure about other stores but Whole Foods gets deliveries shipped in from both coasts at least four days a week. I always go on friday or saturday when they are stocked the heaviest. By sunday night they are usually pretty much down to the bare essentials.

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