Whether you’re a seasoned cook or an aspiring chef, there’s always room to learn something new. In this edition of Ask the Chef, Home Foodie answers some of your important questions regarding how to best shop for fresh fish and seafood, and how to properly handle chicken in order to avoid the spread of salmonella.

Can you give us some tips on what to look out/watch out for when selecting seafood (fish, mussels, crabs, etc.) so we can be sure we’re buying fresh ingredients for our meals? I’m a bit wary of buying from supermarkets thinking their seafood selection is not as fresh as the local market’s. – Marie Ong-Capco
Thank you for this great question! Buying fresh ingredients is preferred as you can be assured of the taste and quality, which can help you create more sumptuous dishes for your loved ones and family.

When buying fresh fish and seafood, look for the following indicators:

  • When buying fish, check if the eyes are clear and bright. Red or dull-eyes may indicate that the fish is past its prime.
  • Fish gills should be bright red.
  • Fish flesh should be firm and should spring back when pressed.
  • Fresh fish and seafood should smell of the ocean. They should smell clean, with no “fishy”, foul odor or strong smell of ammonia.
  • Shellfish should be tightly closed when buying them. After cooking, throw way the dead shells that did not open.
  • For shrimps, the head that is intact indicates freshness. When the head starts to fall off, it is a sign that the quality has deteriorated. It is losing its freshness when the head begins to turn black. However, if the head shows some black color, but the meat in the tail still appears translucent, then it is still fresh.
  • Fresh shrimps’ shells should be translucent and moist, not dull or dry. Shells should not be slippery, have black edges or spots. Fresh shrimps are firm to the touch.
  • Crabs and lobsters should, as much as possible, be purchased alive or frozen. Cook these right away.

Always buy your seafood from a trustworthy shop or fishmonger. Seafood from reputable supermarkets is definitely safe to consume. These stores are required to follow proper food handling standards and safety procedures.

How should I clean chicken meat without contaminating the surrounding area with salmonella before cooking it? – Kath Rausa

Salmonella food poisoning is a risk when consuming raw, undercooked or unpasteurized poultry. The bacteria can spread through cross-contamination. However, salmonella is not only associated with chicken but also with undercooked eggs, raw or undercooked meat, and raw milk.

Prevent cross-contamination with the following tips:

  • Always wash hands after handling raw meat.
  • Wash table tops and cutting boards with hot soapy water after preparing poultry.
  • Clean as you go between preparations, making sure the area is clean before moving on to a new task.
  • Keep raw chicken in a covered container, and at the bottom shelf of the chiller to prevent juices from dripping onto cooked food.
  • Utensils and containers used for raw food preparation should never be used for cooked food.