Ah, it is finally summer! We have survived the rain and even the late season snow, and now it is time to barbecue—bring on the lobster and shrimp! However, before you fire up the grill, there are some food safety tips to remember. Seafood is one of the most perishable types of protein, and, with its delicate flesh, it needs to be handled with great care.
Let’s start with some tips for buying fresh seafood.
- Always buy from a reputable supplier. This time of year when there is plenty of fish in the sea, we see roadside stands selling product out of trucks and vans. This product is not properly refrigerated nor can you certify anything about the catch.
- Always request and keep your shellfish tags. Again with harvest levels high and customer flow at its peak, operations are going through product quicker than at other times of the year. Remember that shellfish tags have to be held for at least 90 days from the point of purchase. This tag has useful harvest information, should there be a foodborne illness.
- Don’t buy what you do not need. As a professional ordering for your kitchen, don’t let your supplier convince you to buy more product than you can use. This leads to contamination, spoilage, and waste. As a consumer going to a picnic or cookout, you know that there always seems to be more than enough food. Let the seafood be the food that runs out so you don’t have to throw it out.
Next, some tips for storing fresh seafood.
- Ice, ice, and more ice. No, not for your cocktails but to keep the seafood fresher longer. Make sure the ice is either chips or crushed and that the ice can drain away from the product. One tip that is popular is to put each type of fish or seafood in it’s own plastic bag then surround each of the bags with the ice. Even better would be to put the bags in a colander and then surround the entire thing with ice. Then when you need them, pull the bag out of the colander and the ice stays behind.
- Have a seafood dedicated cooler. Don’t store the seafood with any other food. This way, the cooler is not constantly opened and closed, maintaining the temperature and the status of the ice.
Last, some cooking tips.
- Cooked seafood waits for no one. Seafood cooks very quickly; let it be the last thing you cook before serving.
- Hold the mayo, pass the lemon. Although mayonnaise gets a bad rap—commercially produced mayonnaise does not cause foodborne illness, but rather it causes an air-tight environment in which bacteria can grow, lemon is a safer choice. It will change the acid content of the seafood, and, if used in large enough quantities, will prevent bacterial growth.
- Don’t push the temperature envelope; keep it appropriately hot or keep cold. After your seafood dish is done make sure you keep is held at 135 degrees or higher or 41 degrees or lower for two hours or less.
It’s summertime, it’s picnic time, and with just a little attention to the product before during and after cooking will ensure your dish will be tasty and safe. Enjoy the season!
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