Top Tips for Cooking Shellfish Safely

There is nothing better than a meal served with shellfish on the menu. Properly prepared, shellfish is a delicacy that is tasty, nutritious and healthy. However, safety is always a concern when preparing these ocean’s tidbits. When dealing with shellfish, proper handling is of utmost importance. Here are some preparation tips to keep in mind.

Cook It All the Way

Products from the ocean, while delicious, need to be properly handled and cooked to ensure they are safe to consume. According to Vivid Learning Systems, shellfish need to be cooked for at least 15 seconds at temperatures of 145 degrees Fahrenheit internally. This will make sure any bacteria, microbial pathogens or parasites found in shellfish will be rendered harmless. Often, the color is a clue to the readiness of shrimp, crab, and lobster. Be sure not to overcook, or the meat will be tough and chewy. Clams, scallops, and oysters will usually open their shells when ready.

Need-to-Know Preparation Tips

Seafood needs to be stored at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not store it in a container with water. According to the Washington State Department of Health, shellfish that have shells that are open are dead and must be discarded. Keep raw shellfish separate from cooked shellfish. Clean any utensils between uses. Be sure hands are cleaned after each contact with cooked or raw shellfish. Deterioration can happen quickly between temperatures between more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and under 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Stored refrigerated shellfish can last under 40 degrees Fahrenheit for up to seven days, except for mussels, which can only last three to four days.

Know Where it Comes From

Due to the vast amount of import/export in the shellfish industry, seafood may not be local and could be from any part of the world. It is important to know where the food comes from. Even if the shellfish comes from the United States, there can be issues that may make you consider consuming it. According to Robert R. Castro, flesh-eating bacteria is on the rise in the Chesapeake Bay, so any shellfish from the region need to be handled extra carefully. Common illnesses shellfish can cause include Vibrio, Salmonella, Shigella and Listeria. If harvested near human- and animal-contaminated waste disposal waters, gastroenteritis, septicemia, salmonellosis, hepatitis, cholera and typhoid may have infected the seafood.

When harvested, stored, prepared and cooked correctly, shellfish can be enjoyed as delicious food. If you have any doubt, throw it out. Often, smell is a strong indicator of freshness. Shellfish can be frozen for a limited time of three to six months. Practice good safety procedures and you’ll be sure to safely enjoy great-tasting shellfish.

Read more: Why Storing a Year’s Supply of Food May be a Good Idea

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