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Preparing Seafood

Most fish and seafood, with the exception of a few, require little preparation before cooking. There are a few ways to enhance the flavor prior to cooking.

Peeling and deveining shrimp involves removing the shell and the digestive tract or “vein” from the body of the shrimp. Both procedures are simple to complete and can be done with a paring knife. Grip the shrimp’s tail and pull the legs and shell away from the flesh. Remove the tail, if desired. Place the shrimp on a cutting board and use a paring knife to make a shallow cut down the back of the shrimp, exposing the vein; pull it out. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

To open raw clams and oysters, first clean them under cold water and remove all mud. Hold the clam or oyster firmly in a towel in the palm of your hand. With the fingers of the same hand, squeeze and pull the blade of the clam knife between the clamshells. Pull the knife between the shells until it cuts the muscle. Twist the knife to pry the shells apart. Use the knife tip to release the clam/oyster from the shell. Remove the top shell.

Skinning fish filets is necessary when you purchase the whole side of the fish. Place the filet on a cutting board with the skin side down. Using a flexible chef’s knife, cut under the skin at the tail end. Grip the skin tightly with one hand and using a sawing motion, cut along the skin to separate the flesh.

Removing bones from filets is sometimes necessary when you purchase center-cut fish, such as salmon, or a whole side filet. Known as pin bones, you can pull them out with fish tweezers or needle-nose pliers.

Marinating is the process of soaking seafood in a seasoned liquid to flavor it. Common ingredients in marinades are oils, herbs, seasonings, and sauces, such as teriyaki. When marinating, cover and refrigerate the fish. The time needed to marinate is short--between 30 and 60 minutes. Discard the marinade after use. There are many prepared marinades available in the retail market.

Seasoning is the process of adding herbs, spices, or other flavor enhancers to fish without dramatically changing its taste. Salt and pepper are the most commonly used seasonings, along with dried herbs. There are many prepared seasoning blends available in the retail market.