You can find useful information on Australian seafood on this website, including what species are available, where to buy it and how to cook it.
Seafood is easy and quick to cook. A range of cooking tips and tutorials can be found on the Cooking page.
But here are a few quick tips:
- Don’t overcook fish. If pan frying fish cook it part way through on one side (about a third will change colour) – then turn over and cook for around half the time. Then take off the heat. The fish will keep cooking.
- You can cook fillets in a frypan just like beef or chicken, however it will take less time.
- You can also bake it in the oven or cook on the BBQ. Buying whole fish is often cheaper and it can be easily cooked in the oven or BBQ. Ask your fishmonger to gut and scale the fish so it’s ready to cook.
- Shellfish and cephalopods (octopus and squid) will toughen if overcooked so keep cooking time short.
- Steaming, grilling or microwaving are also healthy cooking methods.
- During cooking, use oil instead of butter.
- Instead of adding salt, use herbs, spices, garlic or lemon.
A good tip while planning meals is to allow around 150g raw seafood (flesh only) per person (or 500g / half a kilogram for a family of four). Two plate-sized whole fish will feed four people.
How to choose
If you can’t source directly from the fisher (or catch your own), the best advice is to get to know your local fishmonger. They usually have the freshest catch and can suggest the best fish for the recipe you have in mind. Fresh seafood smells like the sea (not too fishy) and appears glossy and moist. When buying whole fish, look for clear bulging eyes.
Ask for sustainable seafood species and retailers will supply it.
The Australian Fish Names Standard was introduced in 2007 and retailers are expected to abide by this however you may still find misnamed seafood. The Australian fish names database is available at fishnames.com.au.
Budget-friendly seafood ideas
Price is not necessarily an indicator of nutritional quality or sustainability, and there are cheaper and sustainable species that are also nutritious. Blue Mackerel, Australian salmon and Australian Sardines are good examples. Fresh seafood is generally sold by the kilogram, making it is easy to compare prices. Whole fish can also be found at a cheaper price – and many specialty fish retailers will fillet a fish you choose. You can ask for the head and bones back as they are good for making tasty fish stocks or soups. Canned and frozen seafood can also be an economical, sustainable and convenient way to get a serve of seafood.
Frozen fish is a convenient option and there are many products with just plain fillets with nothing added. In many cases, frozen seafood can be superior to consume at home, as quality does not change over time. Testing undertaken by the FRDC with some of Australia’s leading chefs showed seafood well-handled and frozen is almost impossible to detect from fresh.
Limit frozen seafood products with coatings and creamy sauces that have added salt and higher levels of saturated fat.
Frozen fish must be labelled with the Country of Origin, and much of it is farmed (produced from aquaculture). Some imported and processed fish has lower levels of omega-3 fats than fish caught in Australian waters. Look for sustainability certification logos, such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Keep seafood in the coldest part of your fridge, usually on the bottom shelf or in the meat/seafood draw. For best storage place seafood into a sealed container or bowl that allows for drainage.
If you need to store seafood for longer than a couple of days, it may be best to freeze it. However, this may impact on texture. As a rule of thumb don’t freeze for more than 2 months.
When buying fresh seafood that has been thawed for convenience, the Food Safety Information Council (FSIC) advises that as long as it has been kept well refrigerated it can still be refrozen. The quality will decrease.
Quick and easy recipes
Australian seafood is versatile as well as nutritious. You can adapt most family favourites to include local and sustainable seafood, including pasta, salads, pizza, one-pot meals, curries, stir fries, baked dinners and barbeques. Review the collection of healthy, tasty, simple and economical recipes developed by Healthy Food Guide Magazine with suggestions of local and sustainable species on the healthy family-friendly recipes page.
Tips for feeding fussy eaters
Seafood can be introduced to babies at around 6 months of age (NHMRC 2013, Infant Feeding Guidelines) in puree form and then progress to small pieces they can pick up and eat by themselves around 8-10 months. Introducing seafood early will help them accept the taste as well as provide important nutrients for growth and development. For those who don’t like a strong ‘fishy’ taste, white fish has a milder flavour than darker coloured, oilier fish. Try curries (mild for young children), fish cakes and pasta dishes that dilute any strong fishy flavour.