Storing Your Seafood
It's always best to cook fresh seafood within two days of purchase. If that's not possible, here are some tips to help you store it.
- Never let seafood sit unrefrigerated for long, especially in a hot car. If necessary, transport seafood to your home in an ice chest or ask your fish market to pack it in ice for you.
- Handle all seafood with care. Seafood with bruises or punctures will spoil more rapidly.
- As soon as possible refrigerate finfish as close to 32 degrees as possible. Fish can be held twice as long at 32 degrees as it can be at 37 degrees.
To store fresh fish, remove from its package, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. When fish sits in its own juices, the flesh deteriorates more rapidly. To prevent this place cleaned finfish, whole, fillets or steaks onto a cake rack so that the fish do not overlap. Set the rack in a shallow pan. If it is necessary to keep the fish more that 24 hours, fill the pan with crushed ice. (Since ice leaches color and flavor from fish, make certain that it does not come into contact with the fish.)
Cover the pan with plastic wrap or foil, seal tightly and refrigerate. Drain and re-ice as necessary. Each day, rinse fish under cold water, clean the rack and the pan and change the ice. If the fish has a fishy or ammonia smell after being rinse, it should be discarded. If you will not be using the fish within a day or so, it's best to freeze it immediately. To do so, rinse the fish under cold water and pat very dry with paper towels. First wrap the fish tightly in plastic wrap, squeezing all the air out, and then wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze. For best quality of fish frozen at home, use within two weeks.
Always thaw fish and seafood in the refrigerator. Thawing at temperatures higher than 40 degrees causes excessive drip loss and adversely affects taste, texture, aroma and appearance.
- Store live oysters, clams and mussels in the refrigerator at a temperature of about 35 degrees. Keep damp, but do not place on ice, or allow fresh water to come in contact with them or place in air-tight containers because it will kill them.
- Keep freshly shucked oysters, scallops and clams in their own containers and store in a refrigerator about 32 degrees. For best results, surround the containers with ice.
- Store live lobster and crab in the refrigerator in moist packaging (seaweed or damp paper strips), but not in airtight containers, water or salted water. Lobsters should generally remain alive for about 24 hours.
- Just before opening or cooking, scallops, mussels, clams, or oysters in the shell should be scrubbed under cold water to clean them. Soaking them in water with flour or cornmeal to encourage the creatures to eat to clean out the grit only shortens their life.
- Store frozen fish and seafood at 0 degrees or below. For fish that is purchased frozen, it is recommended that it be used within two months. If your home freezer door is opened frequently, it is recommended that fish be used within two weeks for optimum taste and nutrition