For our culinary purposes, if a plant or animal lives in a body of water (fresh and sea), we'll consider it "seafood." Fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and plant life are good sources of protein and calcium, as well as vitamins and minerals. As with many foods, wild populations are being depleted as purveyors attempt to meet the world's seemingly unceasing demands. Seafood that has been farmed, primarily fish, is another option. For information on sustainable seafood, refer to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch.
Learn some seafood skills, such as shucking oysters and clams, peeling and deveining shrimp, and more, by watching our seafood technique videos.
Lobster and Crab
Lobster and Stone Crab Enchilado
Shrimp, Prawn, and Crawfish
Shrimp and Mango Skewers with Guava-Lime Glaze
Octopus and Squid
Oysters, Mussels, Scallops, and Clams
Linguine with Herb Broth and Clams
When purchasing seafood, freshness is key. Regardless of what you buy, it should not smell fishy. Try to buy lobsters and crabs that are still alive. They should be active, not listless, and certainly not dead. With clams, oysters, and mussels, it's not so easy to tell. If the shells are slightly open, they should close shut when you touch them. Fresh fish should be firm to the touch, with pink gills and clear, glassy eyes. Shrimp, like fish, ought to have shiny skin. If you need assistance or more information, ask the fishmonger.
Using the proper equipment is vital for oyster- and clam-shucking that is safe and successful. Arm yourself with a shucking knife and a towel. The former is specially designed for the job at hand and the latter will help you grip the mollusk, catch any juices, and protect you if your knife slips. If you're a novice, familiarize yourself with the process by watching our shucking video, then proceed to work slowly.
A Humane Way to Die
If throwing a live lobster or crab straight into a pot of boiling water unsettles you, first chill the crustaceans in the freezer for as little as 15 minutes to deaden their nervous system. Then try these alternatives.
Lobster: Take a sharp chef's knife and cut the "head" in half down the middle, rendering the lobster dead and ready for cooking.
Crab: Flip the crab on its back. Unfurl its tail, locate the triangular indentation on the underside, and pierce the shell right there with the tip of a knife. The crab is then ready for cooking.
Overcooking Is Easy to Do
Seafood turns rubbery when overcooked. Keep an eye on it so that the results are tender. Shrimp turns pink when done, scallops' centers are opaque when cooked fully, and clams, oysters, and mussels are ready to be eaten once their shells have opened.
Esther Sung first joined Epicurious.com in 2006. Prior to this, she spent several years in book publishing, including at Harper Entertainment, where the proverbial three-martini lunch was sadly nowhere to be found. When not in the office, she moonlights at the Bottle Shoppe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and through this she has developed a fondness for Syrah and Malbec. A quasi-vegetarian, she admits to having relished eating yuk hwe, a Korean raw beef dish.
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