Your Guide To Cooking Shellfish

Your Guide To Cooking Shellfish

Most shellfish lend themselves to a wide array of preparations. Shellfish are high in protein, iron, and vitamin B, and they are relatively low in calories and fat.

Three Categories of Shellfish:

When you think of shellfish, you probably think of it in terms of lobster, shrimp, crab, and so on. Technically, however, there are three categories of shellfish. As a chef, it�s important to get to know all these different types and how to best prepare them:

  1. Crustaceans: invertebrate animals with a skeleton or shell. Crustaceans are, for the most part, saltwater animals; crayfish live in freshwater. The crustacean family includes lobster, spiny lobster, rock lobster, crab, shrimp, prawns, and crayfish.
  2. Mollusks: divided into two categories: bivalves and univalves. Bivalves are saltwater creatures with two shells such as oysters and clams, whereas univalves, such as snails and winkles, have only one shell and can live in saltwater or on land.
  3. Cephalopods include squid, cuttlefish, and octopus. Cephalopods are somewhat inverted—they have a muscular exterior mantle on the outside of their shell. They move by expelling water from a siphon under their heads. Cephalopods generally have well-developed eyes, and they can eject ink from an ink sac as a means of defending or hiding themselves from predators.

Purchasing and Storing Shellfish

Most crustaceans must be alive and vigorous when purchased. When buying shrimp, the meat should look springy and moist. Lobsters should feel heavy and full with all claws and feet intact.

Shellfish should be cooked as soon as possible after purchasing. Refrigerate live crustaceans at 35�F on a bed of seaweed or damp newspaper. Shelled shrimp and shucked scallops may be stored wrapped in plastic. Mussels and clams are refrigerated in netting to allow them to breathe.

Cooking the Perfect Shellfish

A number of techniques can be used to cook shellfish, such as: sautéing, grilling, baking, frying, and more. Check out the recipes on the right for more detailed instructions. You can also skip ahead to Lesson 4 to get the scoop on cooking all types of seafood.

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About the Author

After receiving degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the Culinary Institute of America, Andrea Rappaport moved into a full-time career in the restaurant business. For over 12 years, she worked in various culinary jobs, including as a cook for Wolfgang Puck at Spago, and ultimately as the executive chef and partner of the highly revered San Francisco restaurant Zinzino. For the past seven years, Andrea has worked as the private chef for one family in the San Francisco area, and continues to expand her culinary portfolio by catering, teaching, and consulting.