Ten Tasty Tips For Tackling Seafood
I don’t know if it’s my habit of over-cooking, the price tag, or something else, but seafood is rarely a protein choice served at my house.
But I’m not alone; two-thirds of all seafood is consumed in restaurants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends most adults eat two servings, or about 8 ounces, of seafood a week. Choosing the fish and shellfish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna, salmon, sardines or herring, has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Even though I am well aware of the recommendations and potential benefits, I still find making it at home intimidating. So here are 10 tips and tricks to tackling seafood.
- Be picky. Fish should have a mild seawater or cucumber odor with firm flesh and no signs of browning or discoloration. Crustaceans like lobster, crab, shrimp or crawfish purchased alive should be lively! Shellfish such as clams, mussels, scallops and oysters should have closed shells. If a shell is open, give it a quick tap, if it closes it is still safe to eat. If it stays open, toss it. If you’re buying frozen seafood, make sure there are no ice crystals, because this is a sign of thawing and re-freezing.
- Store it safely. Fresh seafood should last in the refrigerator for two days. If it does not get used in two days, wrap it tightly in plastic and move it to the freezer. To keep shellfish alive prior to cooking they should be kept refrigerated in a dry and open pot or bowl.
- Gently thaw. All seafood should, ideally, be thawed slowly in the refrigerator. Yet in the case of shucked shellfish, those can be sautéed still frozen.
- Get rid of the grit. When cooking shellfish, it is important to scrub and rinse the shells to remove any grit or sand. For mussels and clams, soak them in fresh water for 20 minutes prior to cooking to avoid getting a bite that’s full of sand.
- Season delicately. Lean white fish, including haddock, tilapia, pollock and halibut, along with lobster, crab and shellfish, more often are paired with butter and herb or citrus-based flavors.
- Pack a punch. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna, shrimp and crawfish can handle a much stronger flavor profile such as blackening spices, jerk seasoning or Asian-inspired glazes and marinades.
- Make it twice as nice. After boiling or steaming, crustaceans and shellfish can be quickly grilled, sautéed or simmered to add more depth of flavor or a desirable caramelized coating.
- Keep it sustainable. Look for U.S.-caught catfish, tilapia and Pacific troll- or pole-and-line-caught tuna. For crustaceans, look for U.S. raised lobster, shrimp and crawfish or king, snow or tanner crab. In general, shellfish are the most sustainable seafood option.
- Concerned about mercury? The FDA encourages lower-mercury options such as salmon, shrimp, pollock, tuna (light, canned), tilapia and cod. Be more cautious with tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, along with shark, swordfish, albacore tuna and king mackerel. These species often are higher in mercury.
- Avoid the chewy rubber texture. Seafood needs to reach an internal cooking temperature of 145 degrees F, so keep in mind that like all meat, its internal temp generally rises a few more degrees after being removed from the heat.
Here are some general guidelines to cooking times:
10 minutes per inch for whole fish
- 10 minutes total for fish fillets or steaks
- 18-20 minutes for whole lobster
- 10-12 minutes for live crabs
- 4-6 minutes for shrimp and crawfish
- 4-8 minutes for shellfish (discard any shells that remain closed after cooking)
Barbecue Roasted Salmon
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 pound (about four 4-ounce fillets) salmon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place salmon fillets on sheet pan coated with cooking spray.
- Mix all ingredients (except fish) in a small bowl. Pour this mixture over the salmon, turning to coat.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until fish reaches internal temperature of 145 degrees F.