Meal Plans

5 Fish to Buy at Your Supermarket

Give these healthy, low-cost options a try to up your protein game.

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Raw fish on ice
Travis Rathbone

The fish sold in your local market can be broken down into two basic categories: flat fish, like flounder, sole, and halibut, which have lean, white flesh and a delicate flavor, and are ideal for fish novices; and round fish, which are broken down by their relative richness. There’s oily fish—dinner-party staples like salmon, trout, and mackerel, which have sharper tastes that fish connoisseurs love—and leaner white fish, like sea bass, cod, snapper, haddock, and tilapia, which are milder in flavor and more versatile. Taking into consideration taste, health benefits, and price, which fish lend themselves to the most idiot-proof cooking?

“As delicious as expensive fish like tuna, swordfish, and halibut can be, there are always other species available that are equally delicious and oftentimes a fraction of the price,” says Ian MacGregor, CEO of New York City’s The Lobster Place. 

Fish is high in protein and has a lot less fat than meat.

 If you like your fish mild and sweet, go for HAKE  (typically about $10/pound), a sweet, flaky fish that can hold its own against the more-popular cod; or SKATE  (also roughly $10/pound), a stingless ray whose meat comes from its “wings.” “Folks tend to stay away from skate due to its stringy appearance,” says MacGregor, “but flavor-wise it stacks up against any sole or flounder and is always at a far better price than 95% of the fish in the case.”

If you prefer your fish darker and oilier—and, if you’re a lifter, you should, since they come jammed with more omega-3s—then MacGregor recommends SPANISH MACKEREL ($12–$20/pound), a mild-tasting fish that’s high in omega-3s and vitamin D, and is more elegant than beefy tuna steaks. “It’s one of our favorites,” he says. “It’s consistently available and versatile: You can bake, broil, poach, or grill it; it stands up to almost any sauce; and it’s delicious just sprinkled with sea salt and lemon.” He also likes ARCTIC CHAR, a cold-water relative to salmon and lake trout. “It’s one of those fish that’s in perfect balance, with a unique fatty texture and a sweet, mild   flavor,” he explains. “And to top things off, it has a delicious skin that becomes perfectly crisp when pan-seared or grilled.”

And finally: If you’re going crazy and price is no option, according to Jacob Willner of Chicago’s famed Isaacson & Stein fish company, ALASKA BLACK COD (also called “sable” or “sablefish”) is the way to go. Fillets can cost $25 to $35, but they’re well worth it, he says. “It has a rich flavor and a fantastic buttery texture, it can be cooked many different ways, and it’s very plentiful in fatty acids.”

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