Market forms of shellfish

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Market Forms of Shellfish

Shellfish, like finfish, are also marketed in a variety of forms.

Following are some examples as well as tips on purchasing.

Live in the shell -- These shellfish are sold just as they come from the sea and must be kept alive until they are cooked. When purchasing, be sure they are active. Crabs and lobsters should show movement in the legs. The lobster's tail should curl under and not hang down when the live lobster is handled. Hard clams, oysters, and scallops should close their shells when tapped.

Shucked -- Shellfish sold in this form have been removed from the shell while alive and packed in a clear liquid. Scallops, oysters, clams, and mussels are available in this form. When purchasing shucked shellfish there should be little or no liquid and a fresh, mild odor. Excess liquid indicates poor quality and careless handling. Color is also a good indication of quality. Clam meat should be pale to deep orange, scallop meat should be creamy white to light tan, orange, or pink, and oysters should have a creamy color.

In addition there should be no shell particles in shucked oysters and clams. Scallops are unique in that only the abductor muscle is removed from the shell, not the whole scallop. Shucked shellfish is available fresh or frozen.

Headless -- The head of the shellfish has been removed. Shrimp is sold in this manner as are spiny lobster tails. Fresh shrimp have a mild odor and firm meat, usually greenish or pink in color. The shell should fit the body with no sign of shrinkage.

Peeled and cleaned -- Shrimp is commonly sold in this fashion. It is headless with the intestinal tract removed.

Cooked in the shell -- Crabs and lobsters are sold in this form. The market cooks the shellfish and sells them whole, or the meat may be picked from the shell and is packaged chilled or frozen. Cooked lobster meat is red in color and has a mild odor. The tail of a cooked lobster should spring back after it has been straightened.

Frozen -- Shellfish are frozen in almost every form: raw, cooked, in the shell, and out of the shell. Oysters, scallops, clams, and mussels are sold breaded and ready to fry or bake. They have been shucked, coated with batter, breaded, package, and frozen. Shrimp is also frozen raw or fried and breaded. In this case the shrimp are peeled and cleaned, coated with a batter, breaded, packaged, and frozen.

Canned -- Whole shellfish, lumps of meat, minced meat and smoked meat are canned. Whether they be "dry packed" in a vacuum or "liquid packed" in a brine or juice, they are ready to serve or use as purchased. Oysters, lobsters, clams, crabs, and shrimp are sold in this form.

: About the Author

Adam Starchild has combined business travel with discovering the delights of native dishes from Hawaii and Hong Kong to Russia and the Caribbean. He is the author of The Seafood Heritage Cookbook (Cornell Maritime Press), co-author of another seafood cookbook, and the author of a number of food and cooking articles.

Submitted By BARRY WEINSTEIN On 08-30-95

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