Selecting Fresh Fish and Shrimp
- Smell should be fresh and mild, not fishy, sour or ammonia-like.
- Fish eyes should be clear and slightly bulging.
- Whole fish and fillets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from milky slime.
- Flesh should spring back when pressed.
- Fish fillets should display no discoloration, darkening or drying around edges.
- Shrimp flesh should be translucent and shiny with little or no odor.
- Look for the label: Look for tags on containers of live shellfish (in the shell) and labels on containers of shucked shellfish containing specific information about the product, including the processor’s certification number. This means that the shellfish were harvested and processed in accordance with national shellfish safety controls.
- Discard cracked/broken shellfish: Throw away clams, oysters, and mussels if their shells are cracked or broken.
- Do a “tap test”: Live clams, oysters, and mussels will close when the shell is tapped. If they don’t close when tapped, do not select them.
- Check for leg movement: Live crabs and lobsters should show some leg movement. They spoil rapidly after death, so only live crabs and lobsters should be selected and prepared.
- Don’t buy frozen seafood if its package is open, torn, or crushed on the edges.
- Avoid packages with signs of frost or ice crystals, which may mean the fish has been stored a long time or thawed and refrozen.
- Put seafood on ice or in the refrigerator or freezer soon after buying it. If seafood will be used within 2 days after purchase, store it in the refrigerator. Otherwise, wrap it tightly in plastic, foil, or moisture-proof paper and store it in the freezer.
- Use only fresh fish for freezing.
- Use heavily waxed paper, freezer wrap, heavy-duty aluminum foil, or plastic freezer storage bags for fish storage.
- Wrap fish tightly. Remove all air from the bag before sealing.
- Fish can be placed in a shallow metal pan, covered with water, frozen, and rewrapped in foil, paper, or plastic.
- Label packages with contents and dates.
- Space packages in freezer to allow proper air circulation for cooling and freezing.
- Once packages are solidly frozen (within 24 hours), you can restack them within the freezer.
- Properly wrapped fish will store in the freezer for 6 months if they are lean fish and 2-3 months if they are fatty fish.
- To avoid quality deterioration, do not refreeze thawed products.
- Thaw frozen seafood gradually in a refrigerator. If seafood needs to thaw quickly, either seal it in a plastic bag and submerge in cold water or, if the seafood will be cooked immediately, defrost in the microwave until the seafood is still icy but pliable.
Separate for Safety
- When buying unpackaged cooked seafood, make sure it is physically separated from raw seafood in its own display case or by dividers.
- Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with soap and hot water between the preparation of raw foods, such as seafood, and the preparation of cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
Most seafood should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F.
- Fish: Flesh should be opaque and separate easily with a fork
- Shrimp and Lobster: Flesh becomes pearly and opaque
- Scallops: Flesh turns opaque and firm
- Clams, mussels, oysters: Shells open during cooking; discard any that don’t open
Spoiled seafood can have an ammonia odor. This odor becomes stronger after cooking. If you smell ammonia odor in raw or cooked seafood, do not eat it.
Never leave seafood or other perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours (or more than 1 hour when temperatures are above 90°F).
At events, keep hot seafood hot and cold seafood cold:
- Divide hot dishes containing seafood into smaller serving platters. Keep platter refrigerated until time to
reheat them for serving.
- Keep cold seafood on ice or serve it throughout the event from platters kept in the refrigerator.
“Fresh and Frozen Seafood: Selecting and Serving it Safely”, FDA:
“Freezing and Smoking Tips”, Penn State University Department of Food Science: foodscience.psu.edu