It's a simple question, but one many people don't know how to answer: How long does fresh fish last in the refrigerator after you buy it?
Equally passionate about good seafood as we are afraid of fish that's gone bad, we at HuffPost Taste reached out to the experts to confirm the answer once and for all. After speaking with some fishmongers from around New York City, we found the consensus: Fresh fish lasts in the fridge for two to three days, at most.
The folks over at Brooklyn's Fish Tales say that fish will keep for three days maximum. Of course, they buy fresh fish every morning and urge anyone to buy fish the same day they're going to cook it. If that's impossible, you should keep it on ice in the refrigerator. Never keep it in the freezer, they say.
According to the fishmongers at The Lobster Place, which also buys fresh seafood every day and suggests you do your shopping as close to the time that you're planning to eat as possible, a whole fish will keep slightly longer than fillets. When you buy a whole fish, less of the area that you're planning to eat is exposed to oxygen. This means it will keep a little longer. They estimate a whole fish will last a maximum of three days, while fillets will last closer to two days.
Certain fish will dry out faster than others, the folks at The Lobster Place say, and some will change color slightly as they age. Discoloration doesn't necessarily indicate that the fish has spoiled, however. Your best method of deciphering whether or not your fish is still fresh is "by giving it the old smell test," the fishmongers say. If it smells off, it probably is.
To prolong the lifespan of seafood, you need to store it correctly. Village Fishmonger has a detailed list of instructions for the proper way to store various kinds of seafood. (The website also has great instructions for prepping and cooking different kinds of seafood.) Village Fishmonger recommends storing fish two ways. The first is to keep the fish in its packaging or to seal it in a bag and rest it on top of ice. The second is to unwrap the fish and place it on top of a layer of plastic that is set over the ice. Either way, the fish should not come in direct contact with the ice.
Storing shellfish requires a different technique. Village Fishmonger suggests keeping clams and oysters covered with a damp paper towel in a container that will allow for drainage in case there's any excess moisture. Fish Tales confirms: store shellfish in a bowl, covered with a paper towel, in the fridge.
The bottom line is that seafood is best eaten when it's as fresh as possible -- but with proper storage, it will last up to three days. Now that you know how long your fish will keep, check out the easy seafood recipes below. Just make sure to use the smell test before you get started.