Tips about Seafood Safety – Handling and Preparation
From Storage to Cooking
Seafood is safe for consumption in general. However, seafood can pose a risk when it is raw or undercooked as there might be bacteria, viruses or parasites on it. Here are some tips for you to keep your seafood safe for consumption:
- Do not remove fresh fish from its original packaging
- Avoid putting too much stuffs in the fridge so that cold air can circulate freely around the seafood.
- If you are not cooking the seafood within 1-2 days, wrap it tightly in moisture-proof freezer paper or foil to protect it from air leaks and store in the freezer.
- Storage for live shellfish should be kept in containers and refrigerated. They should be covered with clean, wet cloths but not airtight.
- Dispose of shellfish such as lobsters, crabs, oysters, clams and mussels, if they die during storage or if their shells crack or break. Live shellfish will close their shells when tapped.
- Canned seafood should be stored in a cool, dry place for only up to one year.
- Processed products such as crabmeat can be kept up to half a year in the fridge. They should be consumed within 3 to 5 days once opened.
- Wash hands completely with soap and lukewarm water before and after any contact with raw seafood.
- Thaw frozen seafood in the fridge; do not do it at room temperature. You can also do it by placing the frozen seafood in cold water in an airtight plastic bag, by changing the water every half hour. If you choose to thaw it in the microwave, cook the seafood immediately after thawing.
- Do not freeze seafood again after thawing.
- Marinate your seafood in the fridge, not in room temperature. Throw away the marinade once it is in contact with juices from raw seafood. If you want to use the marinade as a seafood dip or sauce, boil it before consumption or separate out a portion before mixing with raw seafood.
- Separate raw seafood from ready-toeat foods, such as ingredients for salads.
- Separate utensils for cooked and raw food.
- Always clean surfaces, utensils and cooking equipment thoroughly after any contact with raw seafood.
Always cook fish thoroughly. Start by using the 10-minute rule. Measure the fish at the thickest point. Cook 10 minutes per inch, turning the fish over at the half-way point. Add 5 minutes if the fish is cooked in foil or sauce. (The 10-minute rule does not apply to deep-frying or microwaving.)
The FDA recommends cooking most seafood to an internal temperature of 62.7°C for 15 seconds. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, here’s how to check your seafood:
- For cooked fish, the flesh should appear opaque and come off easily when poked with a fork.
- When cooking prawns, it turns pinkish and the flesh should turn white and firm. Boiling 500 grams of medium-sized prawns takes from 3 to 5 minutes.
- For lobster, it will become red when it is being cooked and the flesh will turn white. If you are boiling it, allow 5 to 6 minutes per half kg.
- When cooking scallops, they turn milky white and firm. They are usually cooked within 3 to 4 minutes.
- The shells of clams, mussels and oysters open when they are cooked. Discard any that remain closed.
- Shucked clams take from 2 to 5 minutes to cook, depending on size. Oysters cook in about 2 to 3 minutes and their edges will start to curl.
- If you are microwaving your seafood, turn the dish a few times to ensure the cooking is even. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, including standing times.
- Leftovers for cooked seafood should be placed in the fridge as soon as possible and be consumed within 1 or 2 days.
- Discard seafood which has been left at temperatures between 4°C and 60°C for longer than 2 hours.
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