Cooking seafood safely
It’s holiday time already. So now I want to talk seafood. The one word covers a wide range of popular fare from fresh fish to molluscs like oysters, squid; and crustaceans from prawns through to ‘bugs’.
If you can go to the fish markets, it’s a worthwhile trip. The reason prices vary is due to popularity, availability and edible content. Bugs will be cheaper because there is more waste in the shell. But the taste of the meat, nearly all from the tail, is sweeter than lobster or prawn.
The main thing with seafood is freshness and a storage temperature of 0 degrees C on ice. The longer away from 0 degrees and catch, the worse the quality and the higher chance of food poisoning or spoilage bacteria: here are some tips.
Fresh fish should have bright un-sunken eyes, red gills, firm-to-touch flesh an little or no odour other than a saline ‘sea’ smell – heavy and ‘fishy’ are no-nos.
Molluscs in shell should have the same light, salty smell and fill the shell without signs of dehydration.
Crustaceans should be freshly cooked and chilled, whereupon they turn red or pink. They should smell fresh. They should feel heavy or dense for their volume when handled. In the case of prawns: the shell should nearly always be firm. There may be the odd one with a soft shell that has just moulted. Legs should be clean and light – they go black from the top down when spoilage begins, as does the head.
When preparing and serving, remember to keep that temperature as low as possible for as long as possible. Never re-serve chilled seafood. In four hours at room temperature, including preparation time, your expensive seafood has become a health hazard. Throw it away. Don’t be tempted.
Yes, there are recipes. But seafood can be enjoyed fresh, at a mooring, on a picnic or anywhere. Just remember: buy and store carefully. And with Mud or Blue Swimmer Crabs, supply a finger bowl of warm water and a nice dry white wine on ice. Fresh crab makes a delicious, messy feast.