All About Seafood
Seafood is a popular and elegant food that, if cooked properly, is delicate and full of flavour. If you struggle with overcooking seafood or have questions about preparing it - we can help! We have put together some helpful tips and guides on various seafood, from selecting to thawing to preparing and cooking. You’ll be an expert in no time!
LobsterChili Aioli Grilled Lobster Tails
Frozen lobster tails are a great way to eat lobster meat without having to deal with live lobsters. We love smearing them with a zesty aioli and cooking them on the barbecue.
ScallopsScallops with Curried Coconut Sauce
Thread these marinated scallops onto skewers and cook them right on the barbecue. Serve them as an entrée over rice with our delicious Curried Coconut Sauce.
ShrimpSpicy Lemon Garlic Prawns
This recipe requires that you clarify the butter, which separates out the milk solids and allows you to cook the shrimp at a higher temperature. Serve these lemony Thai chile-spiced shrimp over rice as an entrée or before dinner as an elegant appetizer.
Oysters on the half shell are surprisingly easy to grill. Dress them with a homemade chili cilantro sauce and cook them directly on the barbecue.
Shrimp is the most popular seafood; they are sold fresh, frozen or pre-cooked, with heads on or off, shells on or off, tails on or off and with the vein removed or not. They are very easily overcooked and so should be cooked quickly or gently.
- Shrimp are sold by count per pound, but many recipes call for a size. Small shrimp are 61 to 90 per pound or Size 61-90. Medium are 41-50, Large are 16-20 and Colossal are U8-U12 (Under 8-12). Find these in the frozen section of your grocery store.
- IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) shrimp will be separate in the bag and easy to take out only what you need.
- Do not buy shrimp marked as previously frozen as you have less control over their freshness. Instead, buy frozen and thaw them yourself.
Thawing and Storing:
- Thaw shrimp overnight in the fridge or in a heavy-duty plastic bag under cold running water. Use shrimp the same day they are thawed.
- Before cooking, make sure shrimp are completely thawed and pat dry.
- If poaching shrimp, use a well-seasoned, flavourful poaching liquid. Stop the cooking process immediately after they are done cooking by chilling them in an ice bath.
- To barbecue, try grilling shrimp on bamboo skewers or in a barbecue basket to make things easier.
- Oven-baked shrimp is another easy method to use.
ShrimpGinger Lime Grilled Shrimp
These barbecued shrimp skewers are marinated in an Asian-inspired ginger lime sauce. Serve them over rice as an entrée or as an appetizer with your favourite dipping sauce.
Baked coconut-crusted shrimp is a delicious appetizer. Serve these with your favourite dipping sauce.
Scallops cook quickly and have a beautifully mild, sweet flavour.
- Scallops are usually sold frozen, shell off and ready to cook.
- Their size is based on a range of numbers that make up a pound. For example, 20/30 means that 20 to 30 of this size will equal a pound.
- Fresh versus frozen - IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) scallops are good quality. It is always best to buy frozen and thaw them yourself, unless you are close to the source and can get them very fresh.
- Thaw overnight in refrigerator or in a heavy-duty plastic bag under cold running water. Use the same day they are thawed.
Types of Scallops
- Bay Scallops
- Usually from the east coast of Canada and the USA, these are very small, about 70 to 120 per pound. They are great for very quick cooking methods such as sautéing and are a great addition to chowders and ceviche. They are easy to overcook and may toughen quickly.
- Sea Scallops
- These are the biggest variety of scallops. The largest of them will be labelled U8 or under 8 per pound. They are great for pan searing and barbecuing as the large surface area makes it easy to create a nice crust without overcooking the center.
- Diver Scallops
- These scallops, hand-picked by divers, are the most sustainable option but also the most expensive. They are medium in size, great for pan searing, sautéing, and marinating.
Purchase lobster either live or frozen. If you buy live lobster, cook it the day of purchase. Frozen lobster usually comes in tails or claw pieces. The tails can be purchased raw or cooked.
- Once you get live lobster home, keep refrigerated in an open bag or a box lined with damp newspaper. Do not store in a sealed bag, in water, fresh or salted, or on ice. Lobsters need to breath and stay moist.
- Do not put live lobster in the freezer; if you want to freeze lobster, it must first be cooked and removed from the shell.
- Pick up lobster by the body, not the claws or tail.
- Don’t remove rubber bands from the claws until after cooking unless you know what you’re doing!
Cooking Live Lobster
- Boiling or steaming are the most common ways to cook whole lobster at home. To boil:
- Bring 4 quarts water and 4 tbsp salt to a boil in a large pot. Plunge lobster, headfirst, into boiling water. Return water to a full boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes for under 1 lb lobsters and longer for larger.
- To test for doneness, pull on an antenna or a leg; it should come out freely. Cooking times are determined by size, not by combined weight of more than one lobster.
- After cooking, the tail should curl under, and the meat should be firm and white, not translucent.
- Drain. Serve immediately or cool quickly in ice water.
- To freeze cooked lobster, first remove from the shell.
Frozen Lobster Tails
- These are great baked, steamed, barbecued, or broiled. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or in a heavy-duty plastic bag under cold running water.
- To bake or grill lobster tails:
- Use kitchen shears to cut each lobster shell down the back to base of tail.
- Cut across the back at base of tail, forming a T.
- With meat still attached at the base, gently lift out lobster meat and place on top of shell. Brush with butter and bake.
To steam lobster tails:
- Use kitchen shears to cut down both sides of the thin, flat under shell. Remove the under shell and any sharp pieces from the lobster tail.
- Use a small knife to carefully loosen the flesh away from the sides of shell.
- To prevent the tail from curling, run a small skewer through the flesh from the front to the rear of the tail.
- In a large fry pan with a tight lid, steam the tails on a rack above salted simmering water for 8 to 10 minutes depending on size.
- Drizzle with seasoned butter and broil, shell side down, for 3 – 5 minutes.
- Remove skewer and serve with seasoned butter.
Purchase crab either live or frozen. If you buy live crab, it must be cooked the day of purchase. Frozen crab is most often precooked legs or claws.
- Once you get live crab home, briefly keep refrigerated in a wet newspaper-lined container until preparing for cooking.
Cooking Live Crab
- To steam or to boil? This is a matter of personal taste and much discussion.
- To steam: Add crab to steamer pot with 2 -3 inches of boiling salted water and cook, covered, for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size.
- To boil: Bring 4 quarts water and 4 tbsp salt to a boil in a large pot. Plunge crab into boiling water. Quickly return water to a full boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 8 – 12 minutes, depending on size.
- After cooking, plunge briefly into cold water until cool enough to handle. Clean by holding the crab with one hand, lifting the top shell from the rear and pulling it off. Discard yellow spongy material, lift off gills located on either side of the back and discard. Remove mouth parts, tailpiece and entrails. Flush cavity quickly under cold running water. Serve immediately.
Alternatively, the crab can be cleaned before boiling or steaming. To clean live crab:
- Kill the crab by knocking it, against a corner of a counter, in the center of its underbelly with a determined swift motion. Do this by holding two back legs in each hand and thumbs on the back top shell. Or deliver a swift blow to the center of the underbelly with a rolling pin. These are considered the most humane methods because that is the location of its nerve centre.
- Remove the shell by prying it off from the bottom back and then twist the crab to break in half and shake out the inner guts.
- Remove gills and rinse under running water.
This can be a messy procedure so place papers on the floor around the counter. With practice, this becomes quite easy.
Leftover cooked crab meat can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 days.
Cooked frozen legs and claws are easy to reheat by steaming or baking until piping hot.
Other Ways to Buy Crab
- Crab can also be purchased canned in the refrigerator cases; keep refrigerated and use before best before date. Using your fingers, check for bits of the shell before using.
- Imitation crab is made from processed pollock fish that has been flavoured like crab and sold vacuum-packed. Use within 3 days of opening. This is a great option for a quick meal or an omelette, casserole or sandwich.
CrabSnow Crab with Tarragon Garlic Butter
Snow crab derives it's name from the colour of the meat which turns snow white when cooked. We paired it with a flavourful tarragon garlic butter which compliments the sweet and salty flavour of the crab.
CrabHow to Cook King Crab Legs
Buying and Storing
- When buying oysters, they should be clamped shut. That is a sign that they are alive and strong. If an oyster is open, with a little tap, it should immediately close. If not, it may not still be alive and you should not buy it.
- They should not smell fishy; they should smell like the sea, but not fishy.
- Always store your live oysters, cup side down, refrigerated and on crushed ice but not submerged in water. Place a damp towel over top of them.
- Do not freeze oysters in the shell.
- Do not cover oysters in plastic wrap or in a plastic container with the lid on as they will suffocate.
Prepping Oysters and Station
- Cleaning oysters before shucking is key to not getting any dirt in the oyster when shucking. Under cold water, scrub the oyster to remove any dirt or sand.
- Crush ice before starting to shuck your oysters. Place crushed ice on a plate or platter and place all the oysters on the ice to ensure they stay cold while shucking.
- On a small tea towel, set the oyster belly side down. With the flat side up, fold the towel over the oyster, keeping the hinge exposed.
- With the hinge of the oyster facing your dominant hand and your non-dominant hand is flat and holds the oyster, place the oyster knife into the hinge. Find the spot where your knife can get the best leverage.
- With slow, applied pressure, turn the knife to unlock the oyster and pry the two shells apart. This is not about brutal force but slow, applied pressure in the right place.
- Once the oyster shells are opened, the muscle connecting the oyster to both shells needs to be cut. Scrape your knife under the oyster, across the inside of the flat shell, being careful not to damage the oyster meat. The muscle is located about two-thirds of the way into the shell.
- Remove the flat shell completely and inspect the oyster for any pieces of shell or dirt.
- Run your knife between the oyster meat and the bottom shell, scraping the bottom to disconnect the muscle from the bottom shell.
- With your oyster knife, flip the oyster meat over itself to make sure it is fully disconnected before placing it back onto the ice.
- Ensure the oysters always stay on ice and are consumed quickly after they are shucked.
Mussels are harvested and farmed on both east and west coasts of Canada. They are easy to cook, nutritious and very flavourful. Most mussels in the grocery stores are farm-raised and do not require more than just a rinse to clean them.
- The majority should be tightly closed. The shells should not look dry and should have a shine to them.
- Store mussels in fridge up to 2 days.
- Before cooking mussels, rinse and discard any that are cracked.
- If any are open and do not start to close with a light tap or squeeze, discard them. They are not fresh enough to eat.
- Pull off any byssus, or beards, left on the mussels.
- Mussels release their juices when cooked, so you do not need to add any liquid, but any aromatic liquid that you add to the pot will flavour the mussels.
Follow cooking instructions on the package or cook from frozen. They can also be steamed in a pot with 1 inch of water, broth or wine.
Try our Mussels with Chorizo and Tomato.