Fishionista® Checklist for Buying, Storing, and Freezing Shellfish!
Shellfish give off the most amazing flavors of the sea. Whether it’s clams or lobster, I like to reserve the juices to use in a bunch of recipes to get the most of my shellfish purchase every time. Freeze it to use in soups and sauces and to add to another seafood dish. For example, reserve the lobster stock and the juice that comes out of the clams, oysters or mussels to make bisques, soups, a sauce for finfish recipes, or a pasta dish. Trust me, it will take your recipes up a few notches. Just a quarter of a cup can add a pack of flavor.
When purchasing shellfish, remember, availability and sustainability can vary by region and local regulations. It’s always a good idea to be aware of local seafood guides to ensure you’re making sustainable choices when purchasing shell-fish.
You can also look for certifications like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), that ensure responsible fishing and farming practices. Note, there are many farms and fisheries that are sustainable but do not buy into a program like MSC or ASC.
Let’s talk about buying, storing and freezing our shell-fish.
- Freshness: Choose shellfish that are alive or recently harvested. Look for active movement, closed shells, and a briny or seawater scent. Avoid shell-fish with broken or damaged shells, or those that do not close when tapped. Shellfish requires that harvesters provide bag or sack tags indicating the date of harvest, always. You can ask to see the tags anytime.
- Seasonality: Consider the seasonality of shellfish. Different species have peak harvesting times when they are at their best in terms of flavor and availability.
- Source: Buy shellfish from reputable and sustainable sources. Get to know your fishmonger or local grocery seafood department.
- Local and regional availability: Opt for locally sourced shell-fish whenever possible. It supports local fishermen and economies, and reduces the carbon footprint of transportation.
- Size and weight: The size and weight of shell-fish can indicate maturity and quality. Choose shell-fish that are of appropriate size and weight for the specific species.
- Live shellfish: If you purchase live shell-fish, keep them refrigerated and store in a container covered with a damp cloth or paper towel to maintain moisture. Avoid submerging them in water, as they need to breathe. Be sure your grocery bag has air from transfer to home.
- Freshly shucked shellfish: store in a container in the refrigerator at a temperature of 32 to 40°F (0 to 4°C). Use them within a day or two for the best quality.
- Live shellfish: It’s best to consume shellfish live or fresh, but if you need to freeze them, shuck them first and remove the meat from the shells. Clean the meat thoroughly and place it in an airtight container or freezer bag. Ensure there is no excess air to prevent freezer burn. Label the container with the date and use within three months for optimal flavor.
- Cooked shellfish: Cooked shell-fish can be frozen by placing them in an airtight container or freezer bag. Best results are freezing the meat and shells separately. The shells can be used for stock later. Label and date the container and use within three months for best quality.