The Freebie Seafood Prep You Can Make Whole Foods Do For You

From coast to coast across the U.S., there's no shortage of great seafood staples to enjoy, whether it's lemon-drizzled sweet lobster served on a buttery roll in Maine, crab cakes with a punchy remoulade offered in Maryland, or oysters with a tart mignonette that are all the rage in Washington State.

Seafood, for the most part, is best served simply, allowing the ocean's salinity to peek through (although, a touch of added acidity can also pump up the flavor). It cooks quickly too, with shrimp, fish, and tender scallops needing just a few minutes in the pan or on the grill to be ready to eat. All in all, whipping up seafood is mostly a quick and easy process, except for one small thing — the prep.

Any home chef that has ever struggled to scour pieces of crab meat out of the thinnest part of the leg, or scaled a side of trout only to find flaky results knows that seafood prep can be tough, stinky, and occasionally frustrating. Luckily, your local Whole Foods can help get your meal ready before you even leave the door by deboning, deveining, or any other prep step your seafood might need — and they do it all for free.

Let Whole Foods fishmongers do the hard work

The American grocery giant has a reputation for making things easy for its shoppers. This great service extends to Whole Foods' seafood counter, which caters to every level of home cook, from novice to pro-level chef. If you want to special order obscure seafood items, they can do that for you. On the other hand, if you need frozen, peeled, and deveined shrimp, or pre-marinated fish filets for an easy dinner, they can provide those options, too.

But, what if you're looking for something in the middle? What if you want fresh fish to take home and cook yourself, but you don't want to go to the extra labor of preparing it? Whole Foods seafood staff will do the work for you. The chain's fishmongers will scale, debone, devein, and peel your seafood for you, or even custom cut filets or crack open lobster and crab so you can get right to the good stuff when you get home. Even better, the store won't charge you for the extra effort.

Get a fresher cut of fish every time

Having an in-house fishmonger at the grocery store to prepare your fish and seafood to spec is more than just a convenience — it's also a way to ensure quality and a longer shelf-life. Not only is it a huge help with some of the most difficult options to filet, like mackerel, swordfish, and catfish, all of which have an abundance of small, sharp bones ; it also guarantees a fresher cut of fish. While seafood counters might be intimidating for some, especially if you're not good at estimating what a pound of salmon looks like, for example, it might be worth it to try rather than opting for a pre-packaged cut of fish from the refrigerated section.

While it may be a quicker option, pre-packaged fish were likely filleted hours or even days before buying, which means they might not taste as good and will turn bad quicker. Rather, pointing out a whole fish at the counter and having it prepared in front of you ensures freshness, since the skin and scales help protect it from spoilage.