Shellfish Handling

By. Najih - 04 Jul 2024


Shellfish is a broad term that encompasses a variety of marine creatures that have a shell or hard outer covering. Shellfish can be divided into two main categories: crustaceans and molluscs. Crustaceans include well-known delicacies such as lobsters, crabs, and prawns and are categorised by a jointed exoskeleton and multiple pairs of legs. Crustaceans are often prized for their tender meat and sweet flavour. Molluscs, on the other hand, encompass a wide range of shellfish, including oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops. These creatures have a soft body protected by a hard shell. Contrastingly, they are known for their rich, briny flavours and delicate textures.

Handling shellfish

  • Live shellfish are in an open container covered with a damp towel
  • Shucked shellfish (out of shell) are in a tightly closed container
  • Raw shellfish and its juices do not touch other foods
  • Thaw shellfish in the refrigerator and use within 12 hours
  • Thaw shellfish by immersing in cold water for about an hour in a leak-proof plastic bag
  • If you cook shellfish immediately, microwave it on 'defrost' setting until the shellfish package is softened, but still icy
  • Do not keep oysters at room temperature longer than 60 minutes
  • Going on a picnic? Keep shellfish in a cooler
  • Cooked shellfish should be eaten within 3 days
  • Alcohol and hot sauce do not kill harmful bacteria

Purchase shellfish carefully.

  • Only buy raw oysters, clams and mussels from reputable sources. If in doubt, ask to see the shipper's tag or check the shipper number on the container.
  • Shellfish should have a clean, characteristic odour. Do not purchase shellfish that have strong, off odours.
  • Shells should be closed, or close tightly when tapped. The siphons of steamer (soft shell) clams should move when touched.
  • Shells should be clean and unbroken.

Shellfish storing times

  • Refrigerate shellfish immediately after purchase and during transport
  • Never refreeze thawed shellfish
  • Freezer -18°C (0°F) or colder
  • Shucked (out of shell) 3-4 months
  • Don't freeze live mussels, clams and oysters
  • Refrigerator 0-4°C (32-40°F)
  • Shucked (out of shell) 1-2 days
  • Live mussels and clams 2-3 days
  • Live oysters 7-10 days

Cooking shellfish

  • Scrub shells with a stiff brush under drinking water before cooking
  • Thoroughly cook shellfish to reduce the chances of foodborne illness
  • Throw away any shellfish that do not open once cooked
  • Fry – minimum 3 minutes – at 190ºC (375ºF)
  • Boil – in boiling water – 3 to 5 minutes – more after shells open
  • Steam – in a single layer – 4 to 9 minutes
  • Bake – preheated oven – minimum 10 minutes – at 230ºC (450ºF)

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