As the days get warmer, it’s finally time to move your celebrations outdoors with delicious Summer Seafood dishes. It’s the season for endless picnics, BBQs, and lots of fun in the summer sun. We know how easy it is to get caught up in all the fun and accidentally forget enough ice for the cooler — or your handy dandy food thermometer! What may seem like a tiny mistake can lead to sickness, which is no fun at all. Stay healthy this season by learning how to ensure delicious seafood.

1. Buying Seafood

Fresh: Be sure to purchase your seafood from reputable sources whether it’s a seafood market or a local grocery store. If it’s an outdoor fish market, make sure fish is stored on ice and is cold to the touch. Fish should be shiny and firm with a fresh and mild odor, be on the lookout for an overly fishy scent. In the heat of summer, make sure to get your seafood home quickly from the store. We like to do the rest of our shopping, then steer the cart to the freezer aisle and the seafood counter. Another tip is to ask for a bag of ice, or see if the retailer has a soda dispenser where you can fill a bag of ice, to place next to your seafood on the way home.

Frozen: When purchasing frozen seafood, be sure to avoid those with ice crystals. This could be a sign that the product was thawed and refrozen. Lastly, check for tightly sealed packages that are free of dents and tears.

2. Storing Seafood

Fresh: It is important to refrigerate seafood immediately after purchasing and store at or below 40 degrees F. Use fresh seafood within two days of purchase or store fresh, never frozen fish in the freezer and use later. For shellfish like lobsters and clams, store in a well ventilated container and cover with a damp cloth or paper towel to keep it fresh.

Frozen: Store frozen seafood immediately at 0 degrees F or below until ready to use. Frozen fish can be saved for up to six months.

3. Preparing Seafood

Fresh: Wash hands, utensils, kitchenware and kitchen gadgets thoroughly between handling raw seafood and cooked seafood, produce or other ready-to-eat foods and separate raw. Cook seafood to 145 degrees F or until the fish becomes opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Shellfish like mussels and clams should open up their shell as they cook. Be sure to toss away any shells that do not open during cooking.

Frozen: Defrost frozen seafood in the fridge overnight. Seafood can be thawed quickly (about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness) in a sealed bag immersed in cold water or, in a pinch, by a microwave’s defrost setting. Never thaw seafood on the kitchen counter. 

4. Eating Seafood

Well that’s an easy one – it’s delicious! Just remember that picnics and barbecues are usually in HOT weather. Food can’t sit out in the sun all afternoon. Cooked seafood should be left out no more than two hours, and not for more than one hour if the outside temperature is above 90 degrees.

*To prevent foodborne illness, the FDA recommends that pregnant women, older adults, those with weakened immune systems and young children should avoid raw seafood and undercooked seafood.

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