The One Thing To Know Before Buying Fresh Cod

Cod is a type of fish that's known for its muted flavor, so if you're looking to add seafood to your diet but aren't sure where to start, cod might be a good option. According to the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, it's a type of whitefish, similar to tilapia or haddock, and is commonly used in dishes such as fish and chips or frozen fish sticks. The fish is easy to cook and retains its flavor whether it's fried, grilled, or baked.

When grocery shopping, you can purchase cod in many forms. Frozen meals like fish and chips are available for those who want to heat and eat, and regular frozen fillets can be defrosted and cooked as you wish. Fresh fish from the store's seafood department is another alternative, and while The Better Fish reports that there is no real difference between frozen and non-frozen fish, some people just feel better about purchasing it straight from behind the glass window at the store. If you're one to buy fresh fish, though, you should know how much time you have to eat it.

Fresh cod doesn't last long once purchased

From the moment the fishmonger hands you those fresh fish fillets, the clock starts ticking. Fresh cod is only fresh for a short period of time, so you should ideally use it the day you purchase it. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, raw fish needs to be used within two days of its purchase. With that said, once it's cooked, the USDA says it will store well in the refrigerator for up to four days. Another thing to note is that, when preparing it, make sure the raw fish is not stored at room temperature (such as resting it on the kitchen counter) for more than two hours.

Fresh cod must be cooked soon after its purchase because of the risk of food poisoning. Specifically, consuming bad cod can give you scombroid poisoning, which is a form of food poisoning that results in a rash or flushed skin and other unpleasant symptoms, according to Poison Control. While it's less common with cod than with other forms of fresh fish, such as tuna, it's still best to avoid putting yourself at risk.

Martha Stewart says fresh fish can be frozen, though the process might result in the fish tasting or feeling a bit different than the store-bought frozen fish because the freezing process at home is slower. Still, it's better to freeze it than to waste it.

Is fresh cod better than frozen?

The short answer is no. Gavin Gibbons of the National Fisheries Institute told Epicurious that there isn't a difference between the nutritional value or freshness of frozen fish compared to fresh.

"The clock never moves backward when it comes to freshness," Gibbons said. "If a fish is caught, handled well and frozen immediately, you literally stop the clock. You freeze in the freshness." Since fish are usually flash-frozen (freezing at a lower temperature to cut the freeze time) the moment they're caught, there is virtually no loss of freshness or nutrients between the time it's frozen on the boat and when it lands in the store freezer.

Well + Good reports that frozen fish can even be better for you than fresh since fresh fish is exposed to the elements for a longer period than frozen as it makes its way from the ocean to your plate. Though purchasing fresh or frozen can ultimately come down to personal preference, frozen fish doesn't come with the same time constraints.