Buying Shellfish

Varieties DPS84060 1 (h)

From scallops to squid, everything you ever needed to know about buying and cooking seafood.

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Shellfish is a broad label for crustacean (encased in a hard shell) and mollusc (no shell) seafood. Choose shellfish that looks shiny and damp with an undamaged shell (if it has one). Fresh shellfish should smell of the sea, not fishy.


Seafood sold in its shell should be scrubbed and rinsed clean before cooking. To remove the straggly threads or ‘beards’ by which mussels anchor themselves when growing, grip firmly and pull downwards.


Shellfish is rich in vitamins and a good source of protein. Varieties should taste fresh and sweet and can be enjoyed hot or cold.  


Live shellfish is best eaten on the day of purchase. Keep chilled, but don’t store in water. Raw shellfish, such as prawns, can also be frozen. 

Types of seafood

  • mussels packshot


    Succulent and sweet, farmed mussels are also cheap and sustainable. Before cooking, tap shells and discard any that stay open. After cooking, throw away any that float to the surface or stay closed.

  • oysters packshot


    Farmed in Scotland, these cultivated oysters have a refreshing sea-salty flavour and are best enjoyed raw with a little lemon or Tabasco.

  • squid packshot


    Available all year round, this mollusc may look a bit scary, but squid is delicious and easy to cook. All the inedible parts have been removed, so cut into rings, dip in batter and fry to make calamari, or griddle it whole.

  • crab packshot


    These whole Orkney crabs are caught at peak season (April-Sept) and frozen at source. Tesco mainly sells female crabs, which contain more of the tasty brown meat.

  • king scallops packshot

    King scallops

    Found in fan-shaped shells, these wild, British delicacies have a firm white flesh with edible orange roe attached. Cook them quickly but gently to prevent the meat turning rubbery.

  • langoustines packshot


    This smaller relative of the lobster is commonly used to make scampi. The sweet, meaty flesh retains its pale pink colour once cooked. Try them grilled, poached or roasted.


RF April May 13 packshot As featured in the Real Food Magazine April/May 2013.

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