Fresh Seafood Shouldn't Smell Fishy, Food Science Expert Says

THURSDAY Nov. 25, 2010 -- If seafood is on the menu this holiday, there are a number of ways you can ensure that it's fresh and safe.

A faint sea odor is normal, but fresh seafood should not smell "fishy," according to Kantha Shelke, an Institute of Food Technologists food science expert. Freshly cut fish, peeled crustaceans (shrimp, prawns, rock shrimp, lobster, soft shell crabs) and shucked mollusks (scallops, oysters, clams and mussels) should be moist, not slimy or dry around the edges.

Fresh fish should have clear, well-rounded eyes, not clouded, dry and sunken. The gills should be bright red, not darkened or slimy, and the fish should feel moist and springy instead of mushy, she added.

Fresh prawns, shrimp, lobster, soft shell crabs and rock shrimp should have a uniformly light-colored tail without any discoloration, Shelke said. Mollusks in the shell should be alive and hold tightly to their shells when handled and must come with either a "last sale date" or "date shucked." When buying fresh oysters, look for a natural creamy color within a clear liquid.

It's best to buy fresh seafood the day you're going to eat it. If that isn't possible, properly store it in the fridge or freezer until it is prepared and cooked. Shelke offered the following storage tips:

  • Fresh fish, shrimp, scallops, freshwater prawns, and lobster tails can be stored in tightly sealed storage bags or plastic containers and kept on ice in the refrigerator. Using this method, fresh scallops and crustacean tails will keep three to four days and fresh fish will keep five to seven days.
  • Scallops, crustacean tails and fish can be frozen in water and stored in a freezer for four to six months (0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower). To thaw, leave them in the refrigerator overnight or you can place them under cold, running tap water immediately before you cook them.
  • Live, hardshell mollusks can remain alive for a week to 10 days stored un-iced in the fridge, kept at 34 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Freshly shucked mollusks can keep for up to 10 days when packed in ice and stored in the refrigerator.
  • Fresh softshell crabs can be stored up to two days if wrapped in plastic and packed in ice in the fridge. They can keep for up to six months when wrapped in several layers of plastic and stored in a freezer (at 0 degrees Fahrenheit). It is important to thaw these overnight in the refrigerator only.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about fresh and frozen seafood.

Posted: November 2010


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