Do's & Don'ts: Your First Time At a Seafood Market

 Updated: September 7, 2023

Tips for The Best Experience on Your First Time Trip to a Seafood Market

Even the most novice seafood market visitor can become a savvy shopper using just a few tips: 

  • Learn what to look for in healthy seafood and what characteristics to avoid. 
  • Discover the signs that a market stand is well-kept by the vendor and how to know when to keep moving. 
  • Find out why planning questions to ask in advance can help you make better decisions during your market trip. 

For the experienced seafood market shopper, finding the highest quality items for the best deal is secondhand nature. However, if it is your first time to a seafood market the choices and process can be intimidating. Buying seafood directly from the market is one of the best ways to experience the freshest and most high-quality food available.

Learning the terminology and typical market processes can ensure you have the best experience possible, but don’t be too intimidated to ask questions to the seller. A seafood market seller, often called a fishmonger, is typically experienced and knowledgeable about storing, prep, and cooking your seafood. The fishmonger’s expertise, plus a few helpful tips, can help you get started toward becoming a seafood market expert. 

Learn the Terminology

One of the best ways to understand what you are getting in a fish market is to learn the terminology the sellers and the seafood industry in general use to describe items. For example, you may hear the terms fresh, fresh-frozen, or live to describe the seafood in the market. Each type of preparation has advantages, depending on when you plan to cook and eat the product and what type of seafood you are purchasing. 


Many people come to seafood markets for the option to purchase live. Shellfish such as crab or lobster, as well as bivalves such as clams, mussels, and oysters, are often purchased while they are still alive. 


Seafood markets usually offer a variety of fresh fish for purchase. Fresh fish can either be presented as whole fish or already prepared in filets for you to cook. The downside to buying fresh fish is seasonality. If you are shopping for a specific type of fish and only want it fresh, you have to shop while it is in season. 


Fresh-freezing fish is an alternative that allows buyers to purchase fish out of season. During this process, the fish is placed in a deeply chilled state immediately after catching to maintain freshness and avoid any degradation. By fresh freezing fish, sellers can maintain quality, appearance, and taste longer than the shelf-life of a freshly caught fish. 


Another option for enjoying fish out of season is by choosing pre-cooked fish. These are typically found already steamed, smoked, or in a tin. Pre-cooked seafood is also an excellent alternative to shellfish or bivalves that are not available live. 

Consider Your Priorities

When shopping for seafood, sustainability is a significant concern for some individuals. Sustainable fishing reduces the chances of shortages and leads to a healthier final product. If you are concerned about sustainability, come prepared to ask the fishmongers at the market questions about the fishing practices to determine where you want to spend your money. Learn more about seafood by reading About Us

Learn the Signs of High Quality Seafood

Although you can ask sellers for advice about the available seafood on display, it helps to go into a market with a good idea of what a high-quality piece of seafood entails. Even though it is a seafood market, a clean, fresh stand should not smell strongly of fish. This could mean the seafood is not being stored using recommended methods. 

When previewing fish, look for bright, shiny filets that are still moist and not dried-out in appearance. If the product is pre-packaged, check for a tight seal. If you are choosing frozen fish, ask how long it has been frozen. 

Live shellfish and mollusks should be active. One way to determine the activity of a bivalve is to tap on the shell to see if it still closes. Not all live mollusks will close, but some of the healthiest and freshest specimens will. 

Plan Your Meals in Advance

Before heading to the seafood market, especially if it is your first time, make a plan of what types of seafood you plan to buy and when you plan to cook each item. Going in with a game plan allows you to select items you will use within the peak of freshness and avoid freezing items for later. For example, you can keep live oysters for a week or more before enjoying them, but other bivalves such as mussels must be consumed within a few days. 

Pay Attention to Handling

Even the freshest and highest-quality seafood won’t stay in ideal shape for long without proper handling. When you peruse the options at a market, look for proper display and handling of the product. The ice to keep the fish on display should still be frozen and refreshed if it begins to melt. If you notice fish sitting in melted ice water or witness a general lack of cleanliness around the stand, it’s probably a good idea to pass along to the next seller. 

Ask Useful Questions

Even a novice buyer in the seafood market can gain valuable information by asking the right questions. The fishmongers who have been in business for a long time are knowledgeable in every aspect, from initial handling, storing, and transporting to perishability and proper cooking temperature. During your conversation, you may even get some advice on recipes. Even if you know nothing about seafood, you can discuss what kinds of meals you enjoy, and the fishmonger can recommend a type of seafood for you to try. 

Visit the Seafood Market at Billy’s Stone Crab

If you are looking for the freshest and most delicious seafood in Hollywood Beach, FL, and surrounding areas, Billy’s Stone Crab is the place to visit. Always handled and prepared with the best of care, every piece selected is of the highest quality. To learn more about the market, stop by or contact Billy’s Stone Crab for more information. 

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