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The Ultimate Guide to Buying Seafood

Different types of fish on ice with one person looking to purchase fish

Buying seafood doesn't need to be stressful! Take the guesswork out of buying seafood with our easy-to-follow guide. Learn how to choose delicious, healthy, and sustainable fish and shellfish for your next meal or event. From selecting seafood based on your taste preferences to understanding where to buy your seafood, this guide will transform you into a confident fishmonger ready to bring home the freshest catch.

Determine How Much Seafood You Will Need

Consider the size of your family and the quantity of seafood you'll need. A good rule of thumb is to prepare 6-8oz of seafood per person for an entrée and 3-4oz of seafood per person for a starter portion. Check out Seafood Serving Sizes for a more in-depth look at how much seafood you should purchase.

Consider the Reason For Buying Seafood

The purpose of your seafood purchase will also influence your decision. Whether you’re planning weekly meals, cooking for a special occasion or event, or gifting seafood, consider factors such as your budget, dietary constraints, freshness, taste preferences, and how many you are cooking for.

  • Weekly meals: Stocking up on a variety of high-quality frozen seafood is a great option, so you always have some on hand. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least 8oz of seafood per week.
  • Special occasions: Seafood is often incorporated into holidays, romantic dinners, and celebratory meals. Impress with whole fish or pricier options like king salmon as an entrée, add lobster tails or shrimp as a side dish, and look for specialty and prepared options like caviar or crab cakes as an appetizer.
  • Events: Whether it’s the annual Feast of the Seven Fishes, a backyard BBQ, or a potluck, you will want to find seafood that’s easy to prepare for a crowd. Smoked seafood, grilled seafood steaks, shrimp or scallop kebabs, and ready-to-cook options are all great choices.
  • Gifting: Consider the recipient's tastes and whether they have any dietary restrictions. Samples of a variety of seafood are typically good options for a seafood lover, or you could consider a gift card or gift subscription if you are not sure what they will like.

Choose Seafood that Aligns with Your Dietary Restrictions & Health Goals

Ensure you are aware of any seafood allergies you or your family might have. Although it’s only present in about 2% of the population, shellfish allergies (typically crustaceans like shrimp) are the most common seafood allergy. Also, check to see if the product you are purchasing has been processed in a facility containing the allergens or with equipment that has come in contact with the allergens.

If you're following a specific diet, such as a pescatarian, ketogenic, or gluten-free one, make sure the seafood meets those guidelines.

Seafood has many health benefits. Fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart health and brain function. Seafood is also a high-quality source of protein, making it a great option for muscle building and repair.

To learn more about the health benefits of including seafood in your diet, read our blog Seafood Health Benefits.

Identify Your Preferred Recipes and Cooking Methods

Finding recipes you like and cooking methods you are comfortable with will ensure stress-free seafood meals your family and guests will rave about.

  • Choose a recipe: Finding a recipe that you want to make will help you decide which seafood to purchase. This will help you identify which seafood or type of seafood you should use for the dish.
  • Choose a cooking method: How you will cook the seafood will also determine the type of seafood you choose. Some types of seafood are better suited than others based on how you plan to cook it. If you want to grill seafood, opt for a hearty, firm fish that can withstand high heat without falling apart, such as salmon or swordfish. Steaming and poaching are best for maintaining moisture and tenderness, suitable for delicate fish and shellfish like sole and mussels.
  • Choose the seafood based on the type of dish you will make: Mild fish like tilapia and cod pair well with delicate seasonings, while robust fish like salmon and tuna can handle bold flavors.

Get inspired for your next meal with our large collection of seafood recipes and cooking guides

Select Your Seafood

Once you know how many you are cooking for, the occasion, how you want to prepare it, and dietary restrictions, you can choose seafood you will love. When selecting your seafood, think about if you’re looking for a mild and sweet option or a robust, lean fish. If you know this, you can better choose the right seafood for your dish and ensure it is prepared to highlight its best qualities.

  • Taste: Not all varieties of seafood taste the same. Your fishmonger can help guide you towards a flavor profile you prefer. We recommend trying different varieties to find what you like best.
    • Finfish: Typically flavors vary from mild and sweet to rich and buttery or robust and a bit more oily.
    • Shellfish: Flavors may vary from sweet and mild to salty & briny or subtly sweet and nutty.
    • In addition, taste can vary based on the location the seafood is caught or raised. For example, the same species of oyster can taste vastly different based on where it is raised.
  • Texture: From firm, meaty ahi tuna to flaky, delicate sole to tender scallops, consider the texture of the seafood you are selecting. Not all seafood will hold up to every method of cooking and knowing the texture of the seafood can help guide you to choosing the best option.
  • Sustainability: By prioritizing sustainable seafood, you can help protect marine ecosystems, support responsible fishing practices, and ensure that future generations can enjoy seafood as well. Seafood purveyors should be able to tell you about their sourcing practices and help you make informed decisions.
  • Seafood experience: For those new to eating seafood, you may want to opt for a mild white fish, such as cod. For more adventurous or seasoned seafoodies, bolder-flavored fish, such as bluefish, could be a good choice.
  • Farmed or wild-caught: This all comes down to your preferences.You may find that farmed seafood is milder and fattier while wild seafood has a more nuanced flavor profile due to diets. To learn more about the differences between wild and farmed seafood, read our blog Farm Raised vs. Wild Caught Seafood.

Where to Buy Seafood & How Much Should You Expect to Spend

Buying Seafood Online

Before purchasing seafood online, research the company, paying attention to its reputation and reviews from other customers. Prioritize well-established companies with a history of happy customers and good customer service. Look for vendors that offer a satisfaction guarantee, fair pricing, and prioritize sustainability in their sourcing practices. Consider delivery logistics, including shipping methods and schedules.

Buying Seafood In-Person

Like buying seafood online, you want to research the business ahead of time and read reviews from other customers. Once at the store, assess freshness based on appearance (no discoloration, firm flesh, clear, bright eyes), smell (it should smell like the ocean, not overly fishy), and sell-by dates. Don't hesitate to ask questions to ensure you are purchasing the best seafood.

Steps to Buying Seafood at

  1. Browse the selection of seafood from the navigation or type in the species you are looking for in the search bar. Click either “Subscribe” or “Add to Cart.”
  2. Once you have added all the items to your cart, click the bag icon at the top right corner to review your cart contents. Decide if you want to start a subscription at a cadence you select or if you want a one-time purchase. Then click “Check Out” to begin the easy checkout process. 
    Orange Check Out Button
  3. Enter your shipping address and billing information. You can add promotional codes here. Click “Pay now” to place your order. 
    Check Out Page
  4. You will receive an email confirmation of your order, and you will receive another email with the tracking number once your order has shipped.

By following these guidelines, you can confidently buy seafood that meets your needs and preferences. Whether you're cooking a special meal or enjoying a weekly seafood dinner with your family, knowing how to select the best seafood ensures a delicious and satisfying dining experience.

How Much Should You Expect to Spend on Seafood?

As the saying goes, “Good seafood isn’t cheap, and cheap seafood isn’t good.” When it comes to knowing how much you should expect to spend on seafood, it really depends on a few key factors.

  • Type of seafood: Some species are more expensive than others. For example, salmon and tuna tend to be more expensive than pollock or tilapia. Items like lobster, crab, and scallops are usually more expensive compared to shrimp or clams. If it’s a more exotic or less common type of seafood, it can be significantly more expensive.
  • Seasonality: Certain types of seafood are cheaper and more abundant during specific seasons. Due to the limited supply, out-of-season seafood can be much more expensive.
  • Wild or farmed seafood: Wild-caught seafood is typically more expensive than farmed seafood due to the higher costs of sourcing, but this is dependent on the species.
  • Weather: When inclement weather prevents fishermen from leaving the docks, a strain is placed on the supply of fish available and thus can lead to an increase in the wholesale (and thus consumer) price of the seafood.
  • Geographic location: Coastal areas tend to have cheaper seafood compared to inland regions due to lower transportation costs. Regions known for specific types of seafood might have better prices for those items.
  • Quality: It’s not uncommon to find a similar type of seafood for different prices. If it’s not due to one of the aforementioned reasons, it’s typically because the higher-priced seafood is also a higher-quality product.

The price of seafood is influenced by numerous factors, including supply and demand and the costs of production. The price range for seafood is vast. You can find cheap seafood for as little as $5/lb, but this cheap seafood is also typically low-quality seafood. For ultra-premium, high-end, specialty seafood, you can pay upwards of $15,000/lb. Here are some popular seafoods and the price range (per pound) you can expect to pay:

  • Farmed Salmon: $8-$60/lb
  • Wild Ahi Tuna Steaks: $15-$65/lb
  • Shrimp: $7-$35/lb
  • Roe and Caviar: $11-$940/oz

What Else Should You Know About Buying Seafood?

Should I Buy Frozen, Fresh or Refreshed Seafood?

When buying seafood, it's important to understand the differences between fresh, frozen, and refreshed products. Properly frozen, high-quality seafood is typically the best option as it locks in freshness, flavor, and nutrients, in addition to allowing you to be able to stock up since it has a longer shelf life than fresh or refreshed seafood. However, each has its own benefits and considerations, and knowing these can help you make the most suitable choice. For more information on which is option is best for you, read our article on Fresh vs. Frozen Seafood.

How Long Can I Store My Seafood?

In general, fresh seafood should be consumed within 2-3 days of purchase. Frozen seafood should be consumed within 3 months of purchase and within 2 days of thawing. Refreshed seafood should be consumed within 1-2 days of purchase. To learn more about storing your seafood, check out our Seafood Storage & Handling Instructions.

How Do I Know if My Seafood is Sustainable?

The best way to know your seafood is sustainable is by purchasing seafood from a trusted purveyor with a reputation for sustainably sourced fish. Another way to know if your seafood is sustainable is to research the species and catch methods. Look for certifications on the product packaging, such as Fair Trade Certified. You can also use reliable guides, like the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide. Making sustainable seafood choices helps protect marine environments and ensures future generations can enjoy these resources.


Fulton Fish Market is an excellent choice for purchasing seafood due to our commitment to freshness, quality, sustainability, and customer satisfaction. With centuries of experience, a wide variety of products, convenient ordering, and expert support, you can enjoy top-quality seafood delivered right to your doorstep. You can always trust Fulton Fish Market to provide you with the very best seafood every time you order. 

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