Shellfish can be meaty, sweet, and succulent. For the highest quality, choose wild-caught shellfish, which are high in protein, vitamins and omega 3s.
The crabs most commonly enjoyed in the U.S. include Blue, Dungeness, King, Snow, Rock, Jonah, Stone and Red crabs.
Blue crabs are particularly valued for their soft-shell phase, when they can be eaten whole, shell included. Dungeness crabs are large and meaty.
King crabs can grow up to six feet (about 1.8 meters) across and have most of their meat in their legs rather than their claws.
Crab can be purchased live, cooked in the shell, or as picked crabmeat — fresh, frozen, canned or pasteurized.
Buying, Prepping, and Storing
The freshest crabs are alive, very active and have been in the tank for less than a week. They can be refrigerated in a bowl covered with wet paper towel for no more than 12 hours. Discard any crab that dies before you cook it. Crabs can be boiled live, pan-fried (soft-shelled crabs), broiled, baked, or microwaved. Freshly cooked crab has a bright red shell and can be refrigerated for up to two days. Any exposed meat should be white and moist, not dried out or yellow.
-When purchasing crab in the shell, you’ll need to plan on 1 to 2 pounds per person.
-When purchasing crabmeat without the shell, get at least 1/4 of a pound of crab per person.
-If cooking frozen crab, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Frozen crab meat is pre-cooked, so you will then simply need to heat them up.
-If you’re serving a sauce with the crabmeat, having it ready before you’re finished cooking the crab. Crab doesn’t hold heat very long.
-Cracking a crab leg at the end and the joints will allow you to more easily push or pull the rest of the meat out.
-You can also open crab legs by inserting a fork tine into the end of a crab leg, and then work the fork up the length of the shell. Special crab utensils are available as well.
-Remember, eating crab in the shell is messy. That’s why they are often served outdoors or with bibs. For a neater dining experience, remove the crab meat from the shell or crack before serving.
Lobsters are found in every ocean in the world. In the U.S. their rich, succulent meat is most commonly enjoyed dipped drawn butter or sprinkled with lemon juice.
Lobsters themselves eat nearly anything — a fact proven by their cannibalism in crowded tanks (which is why their claws are banded).
Dining on lobsters did not become popular in the U.S. until the mid-19th century before which — surprisingly — they were known as the food of the poor. American or European clawed lobsters are classic lobsters, which have large, meaty claws.
Look for lively, active lobsters that smell fresh with no hint of ammonia. Their tails should curl up or flap rather than hang down when picked up. Live lobsters can be refrigerated while wrapped in wet newspaper on a bed of ice for no more than a few hours. Cook and eat them the day of purchase by boiling, broiling, baking, steaming or including them in soups or stews.
Discard any lobster that dies before you cook it. Freshly cooked lobster has a bright red shell and all meat should be white and moist, not dry or yellow. Lobster tails can also be purchased frozen. You can also buy “culls”—lobsters missing one claw.
Lobster can be cooked like crab, in boiling water. For a quick, arguably more humane method, stab the head just behind the eyes, bringing the knife through to the cutting board, then pressing it forward to divide the head.
To prepare for boiling, kill the lobster and split it lengthwise. Remove the stomach sac and pull out the intestinal vein. Scoop out the tomalley and roe, and rinse under cold water.
To prepare frozen lobster tail, defrost, and then cut the inner edges of the under-shell with a pair of scissors. Clip off the fins, pull back the shell and discard. Bend the tail back to crack the joints. Rinse with cold water.
Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the U.S. (apart from canned tuna). In fact, we consume over a billion pounds of it each year, with deep-water shrimp — also known as pink shrimp — being the most commonly enjoyed variety.
The unique texture of freshly cooked shrimp is crisp, coarse, and full of more body than fish — and can be savored hot or cold. Packed with nutrition and low in fat, shrimp are a natural source of heart-healthy Omega 3 oils.
Buying, Prepping, & Storing
You can buy shrimp raw, cooked, peeled, and/or deveined. They can be baked, broiled, grilled, steamed, sautéed, fried or boiled. Shrimp cooks quickly and can be ready to eat in minutes. The firm translucent flesh of raw shrimp comes in a wide range of colors and sizes — including pink, gray, brownish or yellow — depending on the variety. Once cooked, the flesh becomes opaque, and pinkish or cream in color.
Shrimp should be refrigerated, preferably on crushed ice. You can also freeze shrimp, whole or peeled, in order to enjoy it once it’s out of season. Just place shrimp in an airtight bag or container, add a little bit of water, and then freeze.
–Shrimp will lose half its weight after cooking, so two pounds of raw shrimp will become one pound of cooked.
-It’s easier to peel and devein shrimp while raw. But note that shrimp cooked in the shell has more flavor than shrimp peeled before cooking.
-To devein shrimp, make a shallow cut along the outer curve of the shrimp and pick out the dark, ribbon-like vein with a pointed utensil and then rinse the shrimp.
-Cook shrimp only until the flesh becomes opaque. Overcooking shrimp will make it dry and rubbery.
-You can make a yummy useful stock by boiling the shrimp shells with spices, garlic, onions, celery and carrot; use it for soups and chowders.