Once harvested, cool the shellfish as quickly as possible and keep them cold. If the temperature of shellfish is allowed to rise, bacteria can grow and shellfish can become unsafe to eat.
Fresh shellfish in the shell
- Store in an open container in the refrigerator.
- Place a damp towel on top to maintain humidity.
- Do not store shellfish in water as they will die and could spoil.
- Shellfish that are alive and close when tapped can be stored up to seven days. This includes oysters and clams.
- Mussels should only be stored up to four days.
- Shellfish that cannot completely close their shells (razor clams, horse clams, and soft shell clams) can be stored for up to four days.
- Shellfish with broken shells, or that are open and do not close when tapped, should be discarded.
Shucked shellfish (shellfish removed from their shells)
- Can be kept up to three days.
- Can be frozen up to three months.
- Store in the refrigerator up to two days and in a freezer up to three months.
Thawed shellfish (taken from the freezer and thawed in the refrigerator)
- Can be kept up to two days.
Shellfish should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145°F for 15 seconds. Shucked shellfish (clams, mussels, and oysters without shells) become plump and opaque when cooked thoroughly and the edges of the oysters start to curl. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides the following advice:
Purchased oysters in the shell
- Buy oysters with shells closed. Discard oysters with shells already opened.
- Boil oysters until shells open. Once open, boil another 3-5 minutes.
- Steam oysters until shells open (add oysters to already steaming water). Once shells open, steam another 4-9 minutes.
- Use small pots to boil or steam oysters. Using large pots, or cooking too many oysters at once, may cause uneven cooking.
- Discard any oysters that do not open during cooking.
Purchased shucked oysters
- Boil or simmer shucked oysters for at least 3 minutes or until the edges curl.
- Fry at 375 degrees for at least 3 minutes.
- Broil 3 inches from heat for 3 minutes.
- Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.
Scallops turn milky white, are opaque and firm when cooked. Depending on their size, scallops can take 3-4 minutes to cook thoroughly.
For Consumers: Molluscan Shellfish Safe Handling, Storage and Cooking Practices
Safe Handling of Molluscan Shellfish from SeaGrant, University of Connecticut, and Connecticut Department of Agriculture. Document