All fish are broken down into two broad categories: fish and
shellfish. While fish have fins, backbones and gills, shellfish are
equipped with shells of one form or another.
Shellfish are separated into two basic groups: crustaceans and mollusks.
have elongated bodies and jointed, crust-like shells. Examples include crabs
, crayfish, lobsters
, prawns and shrimp
are invertebrates with soft bodies covered by a shell of one or two pieces. They can be further divided into three groups:
—Also called univalves, these
mollusks have a single shell and single muscle. Common gastropods are
, limpet, periwinkle, snail and whelk. With the exception of
abalone, gastropods are not as highly regarded
in the culinary world as
—These mollusks have two shells
hinged together by a strong muscle. Examples include clams
—This class of mollusk is
characterized by tentacles attached to the head and ink sacs, which are
to attack predators. Common cephalopods are octopus, squid and
cuttlefish. These are quite popular in southern European,
Choose a reputable retailer with rapid turnover and a regular, fresh
supply of fish. Supermarkets generally purchase fish from a "middleman"
wholesaler, which means the fish don't get to the market as quickly.
Specialty fish markets, especially those in water areas, often buy
directly from fisherman. You can't get any fresher than that.
Some varieties of shellfish (like crab, shrimp and lobster) are available
pre-cooked or frozen, but most varieties will be alive when purchased.
Lightly tap the shells or exposed muscle–they should move when touched.
Shellfish should smell sweet and fresh like the ocean, not fishy.
When shopping, make the fish counter your last stop before going home.
Ask for a bag of ice or bring your own cooler to keep the fish cold.
Once home, immediately refrigerate and enjoy your fresh shellfish the
Storage, Preparation and Cooking Tips
For more information, see individual listings for:
Try one of our favorite shellfish recipes:
View BigOven's shellfish recipes