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Caviar Buying Tips

If you are thinking about serving caviar at your next party, there a few things you should know before you make a purchase to ensure you are getting the best-quality caviar for the money you spend. Here are several caviar buying tips to help you with this task. For the most part, the common first questions you should have answers to before you begin are:

  1. What type of caviar should I buy?
  2. How much caviar will I need? (That will depend on the number of guests you plan on inviting, and how many will be eating caviar).
  3. What do I serve with the caviar? (Knowing how to properly serve caviar is very important after how to properly buy it of course).

Ideally, in order to ensure the caviar you buy and serve is of the highest quality, you should only buy your caviar from reputable dealers. Once you have decided on a dealer, the following guidelines should help with planning the amount and answer other questions you may have.

Caviar Buying Guidelines:

How much Caviar to buy:

The following are just guidelines, and the amount of caviar you buy and serve will be subjective and depend on not only the number of guests, but their eating habits as well. A little does go a long way.

  • A good rule of thumb is that you can get between 8-10 servings per ounce of caviar (1/2 teaspoon portions) or 16-20 servings per ounce of caviar (1/4 teaspoon portions).

If you plan on serving caviar out of the tin- allowing guests to serve themselves (served with crackers, toast points, or blinis):

  • For non-caviar enthusiasts, or guests trying caviar for the first time: figure ½ ounce of caviar per person.
  • For caviar enthusiasts, figure 1 ounce of caviar per person.
  • In other words a 2-ounce tin or jar should be sufficient to serve at least 4 people.

If you plan on serving appetizers or canapés using caviar in the recipe, or garnish on top (but want to maintain the caviar flavor)

  • Use ½ teaspoon of caviar per appetizer served.
  • Each guest will likely consume 2-4 appetizers.
  • In this case, a 2-ounce tin or jar should be sufficient to serve at least 8 people.

Selecting the right Caviar:

  • While shopping for your party, purchase the caviar last so that it doesn’t sit in a hot car all day while you are completing other shopping errands.
  • Bring along a container of ice, or request one from the dealer- to keep the caviar chilled during the transport home.
  • At the dealer, ask to have the sealed jar opened so that you can smell the caviar you intend to purchase. The caviar should smell briny, but definitely not fishy.
  • Read the label to check for specific details and expiration date.
  • Inspect the caviar roe to ensure none of the eggs are broken.
  • The egg shells should be vibrant looking and shiny (and not dull or cloudy).
  • The caviar you buy should be chilled but never frozen. Be aware of dealers who frequently freeze their caviar, (done to increase the overall shelf-life) as freezing can often be detrimental to the caviar- freezing can cause the eggs to burst.
  • Understand the difference between the various types and grades of true caviar (beluga, ostera, sevruga), as well as various non-sturgeon types available as well (paddlefish, whitefish, bowfin, salmon, trout etc.).
  • For tins of caviar, a colour coding system is used for packaging (beluga in blue tins, osetra in red tins, sevruga in yellow tins).
  • Once opened and served, fresh caviar should be used and consumed within 1-2 days.

Storing Caviar:

Like any seafood, caviar needs to be properly stored to ensure freshness, as well as refrigerated at the right temperature to maintain preservation and flavor.

  • All jarred and tinned caviar will require refrigeration. Read labels carefully for storage instructions. Unopened caviar needs to be refrigerated and can be stored for up to two months.
  • Ideally store the caviar in the back of the fridge to avoid temperature fluctuations with the opening/closing of the door (if kept at the front).
  • Cover opened caviar tightly with plastic wrap ensuring the roe is not exposed to the air.
  • Pasteurized caviar leftovers should be consumed within a week of opening.

Caviar Etiquette:

  • High-quality caviar should be the centerpiece of the party and served simply by itself with toast points (lightly toasted) or bland, unsalted crackers.
  • Lesser-quality caviar may be served with other accompaniments to enhance their flavor like creme fraiche, lemon wedges, pickles, sour cream, minced onion, and boiled eggs.
  • High-quality caviar should be served in the jar or tin it was packed on a silver caviar server surrounded by, and nested in crushed ice.
  • Do not serve caviar with silver and metal utensils as they may cause oxidation that alters the flavor of the caviar. (Acceptable utensils should ideally be made of mother-of-pearl, gold, glass, tortoise shell, bone, wood or plastic.
  • Only real champagne (very dry) and the finest frozen vodka should be served as an accompanying beverage.
  • High-quality caviar should taste slightly briny, but never fishy nor overly salty.
  • Caviar should be scooped from the jar/tin and lifted vertically to avoid crushing the roe.
  • Do not overindulge, the acceptable portion per person is generally 1-2 ounces (two spoons of caviar).
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