How to handle raw seafood with appropriate care and caution.

By Morgan Swanson
January 16, 2003
Ralph Anderson

Acidic juices used to marinate the ingredients do not cookseafood but thicken the texture so it appears cooked. Thistechnique helps preserve fish, but it does not kill bacteria andparasites. People with compromised immune systems, the elderly, andyoung children are especially at risk when exposed to suchbacteria. The following tips will keep your favorite seafood safefrom the market to the table.

Purchase fish from reputable supermarkets, seafood markets, andother sources. In the market, raw seafood should never be displayedwith ready-to-eat products and should be packed in ice at close to32 degrees. Make sure the flesh is shiny and firm, and eyes, ifany, are clear. Seafood should smell fresh, never "fishy" orpungent.

Store seafood at close to 32 degrees to prevent the growth ofbacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses. Wrap fresh fish incellophane or air-tight containers. Keep live clams, oysters,mussels, crabs, lobsters, and crayfish in well-ventilatedcontainers and covered with a damp cloth. Wash just beforepreparing the seviche, since fresh water will shorten shellfish'slife. Shellfish, such as clams and mussels, should have wholeshells that are closed tightly.

In home fridges, as in the market, all raw seafood must be keptaway from ready-to-eat foods. Thaw frozen seafood overnight in therefrigerator to inhibit rapid bacteria growth. Always wash hands,utensils, and cutting boards after seafood contact. To preventcross-contamination, never use the same surface for seafood andother ingredients during preparation.

Many chefs recommend blanching or parboiling shellfish forseviche. This reduces the risk of bacterial growth and enhancesshellfish texture.

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