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Look For Shiny Skin And These Other Qualities When Buying Fresh Sardines

Hands holding sardines
Hands holding sardines - Alesia.Bierliezova/Shutterstock

The small but mighty sardines are a true culinary delight. Whether you're grilling them to a perfect char, tossing them into a zesty pasta, or simply enjoying them in a classic sardine sandwich, the versatility of this fish in the kitchen is unmatched. However, the key to unlocking their full potential lies in their freshness. Knowing how to pick the freshest sardines will not only elevate your dishes but also ensure you're making the most of their nutritional benefits.

When it comes to selecting fresh sardines at your local market, the first thing to check out is the skin. Sardines with shiny, almost metallic-looking skin are what you're after. This sheen is a reliable indicator of freshness. In contrast, sardines with dull or matte skin may not be as fresh. Next, take a moment to look into their eyes. Yes, really! Fresh sardines will have clear, bright, and plump eyes. Cloudy or sunken eyes are a no-go, as they suggest the fish isn't as fresh.

It's also important to inspect the belly of the sardines. Avoid those with a broken belly, which you'll notice if the gut contents are spilling out. This can be an indicator of mishandling, poor quality, or old fish. Another aspect to consider is the overall condition of the sardines. They should be intact, with no signs of bruising or tearing.

Read more: 15 Different Ways To Cook Fish

Engaging Your Other Senses

fresh sardines
fresh sardines - Piola666/Getty Images

After visual inspection, it's time to engage your other senses. The smell of the sardines is crucial in determining their freshness. Fresh sardines should have a clean, briny scent that reminds you of the sea. Even though they'll definitely have a fish smell, it shouldn't be a strong, unpleasant fishy odor. Don't be shy to give them a quick sniff; it's a simple yet effective way to avoid a less-than-fresh purchase.

Finally, check the texture. Gently press the flesh of the sardine; it should feel firm and spring back. If the flesh feels mushy or leaves an indentation, the fish is likely not fresh. This test of firmness is quick and tells you a lot about the quality of the fish.

In essence, selecting fresh sardines is all about engaging your senses and knowing what to look for. From the shiny skin and bright eyes to the firm texture and fresh sea scent, each aspect plays a crucial role in determining the freshness of the sardines. So, the next time you find yourself at the fish counter, remember these tips, and you'll be sure to bring home the freshest sardines for your next culinary creation.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.