Your seller can point you to budget buys or specials. “I keep a Rolodex of customers to call when I get a fresh shipment. We’re always trying new fish, and that’s a great way to get good value,” says Frank Tornetta, buyer for the busy seafood department at George’s Dreshertown Shop n’ Bag near Philadelphia.
Tornetta sells frozen wild Bristol Bay sockeye salmon when fresh wild salmon are out of season. “I also sell imported frozen―but not gassed [carbon monoxide used for color retention]―fish fillets like Greenland turbot and mahimahi.” Ask your seller for guidance when considering frozen options. Some processors use tripolyphosphates, a type of phosphate sodium preservative that increases moisture in frozen fish fillets (which may be defrosted for sale). The price may be lower, but you’re buying water and preservatives along with your fish.
For big savings and great chowders, buy fish heads and trimmings.
Credit: Randy Mayor
If you’re adventurous, look for meaty heads, tails, and trimmings of larger fish like salmon, cod, and halibut, which are often sold at bargain prices. Simmer or steam, pick off the meat, and add to chowders and casseroles. (Don’t forget the delicious cheek meat under the gills). They’re also essential to making fish stock, which is more flavorful and lower in sodium that readymade varieties.
If whole fish seem intimidating, try steak-cut or skin-on. The bones and connective tissue of steak-cut fish like salmon, cod, and halibut help retain moisture and prevent shrinkage when cooked. For the same reasons, skin-on fillets are a better choice than skinless fillets. Since these options are less processed, they’re often less expensive.