Tips for Cooking Seafood

smiling man at seafood store sells bag of shrimp to female customer

Eating fish and shellfish, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. The US Department of Agriculture recommends most adults eat 2 servings (about 8 ounces) a week. Seafood should be stored and cooked properly so that it’s safe to eat. Follow these tips from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

Be choosy

  • Buy fresh seafood that is refrigerated or displayed on a thick bed of fresh ice that is not melting.
  • Fresh seafood should smell fresh and mild, not fishy or sour. A smell like ammonia means it’s spoiled and you shouldn’t eat it.
  • Avoid frozen seafood if its package is open, torn, or crushed on the edges.
  • Avoid packages with signs of frost or ice crystals, which may mean the seafood has been thawed and refrozen.

Store it properly

  • Store seafood in the refrigerator if you’re going to eat it within 2 days after you buy it.
  • If you’re not going to use it within 2 days, wrap your seafood tightly in plastic and store it in the freezer.
  • Separate raw seafood from ready-to-eat or cooked food.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling any raw food.
  • Wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes, counter tops, and anything else that has come into contact with raw seafood.

Cook it safely

  • Thaw frozen seafood in the refrigerator overnight. If you need a quicker method, seal it in a plastic bag and let it sit in cold water or microwave it on the “defrost” setting.
  • Cook seafood to an internal temperature of 145°.
  • Fish is ready when the meat is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
  • Shrimp and lobster is ready when the meat becomes pearly and opaque.
  • Scallops are ready when they become opaque and firm.
  • Clams, mussels, and oysters are ready when the shells open during cooking. Don’t eat ones that don’t open.
  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold when serving. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking.
  • Throw away uneaten leftovers after 3 or 4 days.

If you’re pregnant

  • Seafood contains nutrients that are important for the growth and development of babies and children. The FDA recommends pregnant women eat 2 to 3 servings (8 to 12 ounces) of seafood per week.
  • The FDA says to choose seafood that’s lower in mercury, including salmon, shrimp, pollock, tuna (light, canned), tilapia, catfish, and cod.
  • The FDA says to avoid tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, which are higher in mercury. Limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week.

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