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Seriously Useful Seafood Tips: Shellfish and Other Farmed Seafood

December 15, 2020

Farmed seafood is vital to our nation’s food production and security. For some, it can be intimidating to cook farmed seafood. We asked eight of our region’s stakeholders and industry partners to share their best tips to empower home cooks.

Northeast Fisheries Science Center shellfish and farmed seafood stakeholders and industry partners graphic

It takes a community of committed stakeholders and industry partners to make farmed seafood a success. Aquaculture—the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of animals and plants in all types of water environments—is one of the most resource-efficient ways to produce protein. Its benefits include improved nutrition, food security, and habitat quality. 

Scientists at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center work with commercial seafood farmers, buyers and distributors, advocacy groups, and chefs to keep our region’s seafood sustainable, now and into the future. We work together to consider the social, economic, and environmental outcomes so that we can maintain healthy and productive marine populations, ecosystems, and vibrant coastal communities.

Stakeholders, collaborators, and partners involved in our region’s farmed seafood industry definitely know a thing or two when it comes to serving up seafood. Here they share a few of their seriously useful tips about selecting, buying, storing, and cooking some of our region’s most loved seafood. In part two of this series, we asked them to share some of their best practices to help the home consumer. Whether you’re a cooking novice or an experienced seafoodie, there’s something here for everyone.

Abigail Archer

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Selfie of Abigail Archer with oysters on a gas grill.

Snapshot Bio

Abigail is a fisheries and aquaculture specialist with Woods Hole Sea Grant and Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, both located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Most recently, she worked with Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting and Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. She organized a special shucked oyster cooking and taste evaluation event with local members of the American Culinary Federation, Cape Cod and the Islands Chefs Association. The goal was to evaluate if shucked Cape Cod oysters look, smell, or taste differently than shucked oysters grown outside of Massachusetts. This work is part of market viability study for shucked Massachusetts oysters.

Abigail's Seafood Tips

  • Although Cape Cod is known for its oysters on the half shell, Abigail says one of the best pro tips is that home cooks don’t have to shuck them at all. Bake or grill them whole to start, and they will open on their own. Then you can cook them a bit more, adding delicious toppings such as butter and herbs or cheese. Try compound butters—butter melded with different ingredients like minced garlic, shallots, or citrus zest—for a real treat. And there’s always bacon!
  • You can also buy containers of pre-shucked oysters. Just make sure to cook them to an internal temperature of 140 degrees for 4 to 6 minutes. 

Learn more shellfish safety tips

Our Connection

Abigail’s connection with NOAA Fisheries began in 2009 when she was a Knauss fellow in the Office of Sustainable Fisheries. Today, Abigail is a fisheries and aquaculture specialist for Woods Hole Sea Grant and Barnstable County Cape Cod Cooperative Extension

She works on a variety of regional fisheries and aquaculture projects, including NOAA Fisheries’ Voices Oral History Archives. This project documents the human experience related to our marine, coastal, and Great Lakes environments and living marine resources. 

Woods Hole Sea Grant is part of NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, a network of 34 individual programs located in each of the coastal and Great Lakes states. Together, these programs form a national network of more than 300 participating institutions involving more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students, and outreach experts. The Woods Hole Sea Grant program, based at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, supports research, education, and extension projects that encourage environmental stewardship, long-term economic development, and responsible use of the nation’s coastal and ocean resources. 

Chef Michael Beriau

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Mick Beriau holds a plate of butter-poached oyster tartlets dockside at Woods Hole Sea Grant’s shucked oyster cook-off at-home event in June 2020.

Snapshot Bio

Michael J. Beriau is a certified executive chef and a member of the American Academy of Chefs. He retired after a 48-year career in some of the finest hotels, resorts, and private clubs throughout New England. Most recently, he worked at the prestigious White Cliffs Country Club in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Some of his accolades include:

Chef Beriau is currently vice president of the ACF Cape and the Islands Chefs Association, and a certified culinary competition judge for culinary competitions throughout the country.  

Chef Beriau’s Seafood Tips

  • Safety is paramount when it comes to opening clams and oysters. I recommend that you wear stainless steel mesh gloves while opening shellfish. They can be found at most kitchen gadget stores.
  • When it comes to linguine and clam sauce, most home cooks use chopped, canned, or frozen clams. If you want to add a tremendous boost in flavor and dynamic presentation, add in a few well-scrubbed fresh littleneck or “count neck” clams to the sauce about 10 to 15 minutes before serving. When the clams open, simply plate and serve. 
  • When washing soft-shell clams, often called “steamers,” place them in a large pot of cold water with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of baking soda and gently swish clams around. Let them sit a minute and repeat. This process will help clams purge any sand.
  • If you find an opened mussel in your bag of mussels, it may not be dead. Using the sprayer from your kitchen sink, spray it with cold water. If it closes immediately, it’s still alive and can be used. 
  • Holidays are a great time for fresh, local shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels. They add a certain amount of luxury and nostalgia to the table.
  • Food history and culture tells us that an abundance of shellfish was served for the holidays, especially mussels because they grew on rocks close to shore.  
  • For a super-fast appetizer, cook up some fresh mussels. Simply saute mussels with plenty of fresh garlic and olive oil. Then, add white wine and some diced tomatoes and tomato broth and poach until all of the mussels are open and cooked. Finish the dish with fresh chopped herbs such as parsley and basil just before serving to add an herbaceous note and an additional layer of flavor. Adding herbs to a dish is a secret weapon for many professional cooks.

Our Connection

In June 2020, Mick participated in a special shucked-oyster cooking and taste evaluation event organized by Barnstable County Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, Woods Hole Sea Grant, Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting, and Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. Local members of the American Culinary Federation, Cape Cod and the Islands Chefs Association, including Mick, were asked to evaluate whether shucked oysters originating from Cape Cod waters look, smell, or taste different than shucked oysters grown outside of Massachusetts. This was part of market viability study for shucked Massachusetts oysters

Mick made four dishes for this special event, including butter-poached oyster tartlets with spinach, anisette, and hollandaise glaze topped with an asiago tuile. What did the chefs determine? Find out in this cooking and taste evaluation event in this final report. Since most of the oysters in Massachusetts are grown for the half-shell market, there are no oyster processors in Massachusetts to develop a shucked oyster market. COVID-19 has heightened interest within the Massachusetts shellfish aquaculture industry to diversify and supplement income by offering custom-labelled containers of shucked oysters. This market viability study was partially funded by the NOAA Sea Grant National Aquaculture Initiative. 

Woods Hole Sea Grant is part of NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, a network of 34 individual programs located in each of the coastal and Great Lakes states. Together, these programs form a national network of over 300 participating institutions involving more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students, and outreach experts. The Woods Hole Sea Grant program, based at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, supports research, education, and extension projects that encourage environmental stewardship, long-term economic development, and responsible use of the nation’s coastal and ocean resources.

Jimmy Bloom

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Jimmy Bloom holds a package of stuffed oysters.

Snapshot Bio

Jimmy is the principal harvester and farming operations manager for Copps Island Oysters by Norm Bloom and Son in Norwalk, Connecticut. It’s a family-owned farm that operates one of the last standing traditional oyster farms in the United States. They pride themselves on providing high-quality, consistent, and sustainable oysters to customers across the nation. Jimmy and Copps Island Oysters are also members of the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative in Noank, Connecticut. Like many shellfish farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jimmy’s sales slowed. However, he’s been able to increase wholesale operations a little with a national grocery chain. They were also able to sell at several farmer’s markets this year. Customers can also buy direct from their Norwalk, Stratford, and New Haven locations during normal business hours.

Jimmy’s Seafood Tips

  • You want to see freshness when buying oysters.
  • Look at the quality of the shell—it shouldn’t be bleached out. It’s alright if there is still a little salt and grit on the shell, as you give it a final rinse before serving. 
  • Make sure that the oysters can still close their shells. You don’t want to use an oyster that can’t close its shell as that may indicate it’s no longer alive.
  • The most important thing is a good oyster knife. I recommend the New Haven style for beginners because it has a curved edge and there’s less risk of the knife slipping. Always remember to use upward pressure to pop the oyster open at the “hinge” part of the oyster. Try not to push the knife into the oyster. Use a good bar towel to hold the oyster with one hand while using the oyster knife in the other.
  • Freshly harvested oysters will last uncovered in a refrigerator for at least two weeks. However, there are other ways to use extra oysters. You can shuck the rest to use in stews, stuffing, or—depending on the size—frying. Just keep in mind that oysters will shrink once cooked, so use larger oysters for cooking. They’re sometimes called “mediums.”

Our Connection

Jimmy and Copps Island Oysters have assisted and collaborated with our Milford Lab on their GoPro Aquaculture Project. This project looks at the interactions between shellfish aquaculture gear and the environment. Jimmy and Copps Island Oysters have also provided oysters for ocean acidification experiments and welcomed visiting NOAA Fisheries scientists to tour their facilities. Norm Bloom and Sons and Copps Island Oysters often participate in our Milford Aquaculture Seminar and the joint Northeast Aquaculture Conference & Expo. This event brings together scientists, industry, regulators, and the public to share information and help build a stronger more resilient aquaculture community in our region. This seminar is typically held every January, but the 2021 seminar has been postponed to 2022.

Tessa Getchis

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Tessa Getchis knees on a large rock along the shoreline with three bowls of local shellfish and the Connecticut Sea Grant banner in front of her.

Snapshot Bio

Tessa is a senior extension educator and aquaculture extension specialist for Connecticut Sea Grant and the University of Connecticut Extension Program based at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus. Her focus is on shellfish husbandry and management, and on the aquaculture permitting process. She offers industry consultations and training workshops, conducts collaborative research projects with industry, and engages in public outreach. One project Tessa is leading focuses on supporting Connecticut shellfish farmers hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of harvesting oysters, shellfish farmers are using their vessels to raise and relocate oyster shell buried in silt and other materials at the bottom of oyster beds. The transported shell goes into naturally occurring beds that are the main source of oyster seed for Connecticut’s commercial and recreational beds, providing habitat for oyster larvae. This project was developed by Connecticut Sea Grant and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. 

Tessa’s Seafood Tips

  • To prevent illness-causing bacteria from growing, immediately place shellfish on ice when transferring them to your refrigerator. Make sure your refrigerator is set to 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. 
  • Shellfish storage life is limited, and varies by type.
  • While shucking may be the traditional method, other ways to open shellfish include steaming or placing them on a grill. As soon as the shells open, the shellfish can be easily removed. 
  • Cook shellfish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • While clam chowder, stuffed clams, and oysters Rockefeller are popular shellfish recipes, more complex and interesting recipes can be found online. These include cioppino, paella, mussels in coconut broth, and many others.
  • There are knives specific for each type of shellfish. They can be purchased for less than $10 online or from a local seafood retailer. 
  • Those who are immune compromised should enjoy their shellfish fully cooked.

Connecticut shellfish farms doing direct sales to consumers and retail, including farmers markets and farm stands

Our Connection

Connecticut Sea Grant is part of a NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, a network of 34 individual programs located in each of the coastal and Great Lakes states. Together, these programs form a national network of more than 300 participating institutions involving more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students, and outreach experts. They work to protect and improve healthy coastal ecosystems by supporting aquaculture and fisheries, research, workforce development, resilient communities, marine science education and outreach, and watershed and environmental stewardship.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Tessa and Connecticut Sea Grant have been working to help Connecticut shellfish farmers stay afloat through financial assistance programs. They’ve created a framework for direct sales from farmers to consumers and retailers, and leading special projects like the rehabilitation of natural oyster beds. Scientists at our Milford Lab are on the steering committee for the oyster bed restoration project. 

Tessa and others at Connecticut Sea Grant participate in our Milford Aquaculture Seminar and the joint Northeast Aquaculture Conference & Expo. This event brings together scientists, industry, regulators, and the public to share information and help build a stronger more resilient aquaculture community in our region. This seminar is typically held every January, but the 2021 seminar has been postponed to 2022.

Vanda Lewis

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Vanda Lewis sits at a picnic table by a shoreline.

Snapshot Bio

Vanda Lewis was an administrative support specialist for North Carolina Sea Grant. Today she writes, photographs, and kitchen-tests seafood recipes and writes blogs for North Carolina Sea Grant’s Mariner’s Menu. This blog celebrates North Carolina’s seafood and is a spin-off of the seafood guide of the same name. 

Vanda’s Seafood Tips

  • When purchasing clams and oysters in the shell, make sure they’re alive. Their shells should be moist and closed, or should close tightly when tapped.
  • Shellfish should be free of bad odors. 
  • If you’re buying shucked oysters, look for batches that are plump with a natural creamy color. They should contain no more than 10 percent liquid, and that liquid should be clear or slightly opaque, with a mild odor.
  • You can freeze live shellfish. Clams and oysters are best if frozen in their shells, which makes them easier to shuck with no loss of juice. To freeze, thoroughly wash the shells and place them in moisture vapor-resistant bags. 
  • More great freezing tips

Our Connection

North Carolina Sea Grant is part of a NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, a network of 34 individual programs located in each of the coastal and Great Lakes states. Together, these programs form a national network of over 300 participating institutions involving more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students, and outreach experts. Through research, outreach and education programs, North Carolina Sea Grant provides science-based information to enhance the sustainable use and conservation of ocean and coastal resources to benefit communities, the economy and the environment. 

Jim Markow

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Jim Markow sits on a boat, preparing to work on the water on a foggy day.

Snapshot Bio

Jim is co-owner of Aeros Cultured Oyster Company, Inc., with business partner Karen Rivara. He’s also co-owner of Mystic Oysters in Mystic, Connecticut, and founding member and President of the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative in Noank, Connecticut. Like many shellfish farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jim’s sales slowed. Currently, he’s selling directly to consumers at the dock. Farmstand dates and times can be found on their website.

Jim’s Seafood Tips

  • When looking to buy clams, you’ll want to buy clams that suit your needs. For instance, do you need hard clams or soft-shell clams? There’s a difference, so be sure to understand what you need before buying.
  • At Mystic Oysters, we grow and harvest the hard shell clams, sometimes also called hard clams or quahogs. They’re often called different names depending on size, but they’re all the same species.
  • Clam sizes: the smallest clams are about one inch and are called littlenecks. Next size up are called top necks, mid-necks, or middle necks. Next size up are called cherrystones, and finally, the largest size category is called chowders. 
  • If you’re making linguini and clam sauce, littlenecks are a great choice! You can also substitute top necks in if you can’t find littlenecks. 
  • If you’re having clams raw on the half shell they can be any size, but traditionalists love cherrystones served ice-cold with cocktail sauce and horseradish.
  • When it comes to special tools, you can get away with opening an oyster with a clam knife, but you need a clam knife to properly open a clam. Clam knives are very thin and go straight into the small space where the two sides of the clam shell close. 
  • You can buy and enjoy clams all year long as they are traditionally grown to harvest all year. 
  • If you want to maximize savings, buy a wholesale bag of clams. A bag of littlenecks typically has 200 clams while a back of cherrystones contains 100 clams.
  • If you buy a bag of clams, take a large pot and steam the clams with a garlic and oil broth. It’s delicious cooked this way. They can also be easily cooked on a grill and you can always use them in a chowder. 

Our Connection

We’ve worked with Jim and the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative in a variety of ways, including:

  • The Milford Lab’s GoPro Aquaculture Project. They have been instrumental as contributors and collaborators in helping with planning, offering access to leased oyster grounds, oysters, and grow-out gear, study expansion opportunities, and more. This project looks at the interactions between shellfish aquaculture gear and the environment. 
  • The Milford Lab’s microalgal starter culture program. For decades the Milford lab has provided the shellfish industry with starter cultures from the Microalgal Culture Collection and Mass Culture Room
  • Engagement with industry. Scientists from our Milford Lab regularly connect and interact with industry members, providing advice and troubleshooting on shellfish hatchery techniques.
  • The supply of adult shellfish and broodstock. Our Milford Lab scientists rely heavily on industry partners for adult shellfish for broodstock to support our research studies. Industry partners also give our scientists direct access to working aquaculture operations so research can be done under "real world" conditions.

Jim and the members of the cooperative often participate in our Milford Aquaculture Seminar and the joint Northeast Aquaculture Conference & Expo. This event brings together scientists, industry, regulators, and the public to share information and help build a stronger more resilient aquaculture community in our region. This seminar is typically held every January, but the 2021 seminar has been postponed to 2022.

Barry Nash

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Barry Nash (right) stands next to another North Carolina Sea Grant staffer during an outreach event.

Snapshot Bio

Barry Nash (right) is a seafood technology and marketing specialist for North Carolina Sea Grant at their office in Morehead City, North Carolina. He maintains an economic development program for North Carolina’s seafood industry that includes things like business diversification, seafood safety, quality enhancement, and market development. He also helps businesses with commercializing new products, regulatory compliance, manufacturing, and direct marketing.

Barry’s Seafood Tips

  • Raw food can potentially contain bacteria or viruses that can make people ill. Those with chronic health issues and weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish.
  • Before shucking shellfish, rinse them thoroughly with cold, running water. A garden hose with plenty of pressure works wonders. Remember to wear heavy gloves when handling oyster shells. Their edges are quite sharp.
  • Many different types of seafood contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for cardiovascular health. Clams, oysters, and tuna are just a few examples.
  • Read North Carolina Sea Grant’s North Carolina Cultured Shellfish for more great seafood tips and a few of their kitchen-tested shellfish recipes.

Our Connection

North Carolina Sea Grant is part of a NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, a network of 34 individual programs located in each of the coastal and Great Lakes states. Together, these programs form a national network of over 300 participating institutions involving more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students, and outreach experts. Through research, outreach and education programs, North Carolina Sea Grant provides science-based information to enhance the sustainable use and conservation of ocean and coastal resources to benefit communities, the economy and the environment. 

Sarah Redmond

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Sarah Redmond holds a certified organic certification flag in a seaweed farm culture room.

Snapshot Bio

Sarah is the founder of Springtide Seaweed and farms seaweed in Frenchman Bay, in the Downeast region of Maine. Springtide Seaweed is a fully integrated organic seaweed aquaculture company. They grow more than four varieties of seaweed including sugar kelp, skinny kelp, alaria, and dulse on the largest organic seaweed farm in North America. Their seaweed nursery provides USDA organic seed to commercial and hobby farmers throughout Maine and New England. 

Sarah’s Seafood Tips

  • You can use dried seaweed as your new secret ingredient, incorporating flakes or powders into breads, desserts, sauces, casseroles, spreads, soups, pizzas, pastas, meats, gravies, and everything else. 
  • You can also use dried seaweed as a natural table salt alternative. It provides a slightly salty flavor with an ideal potassium-to-sodium ratio for human health. It also provides a wide range of other essential macro- and micro-minerals. 
  • Seaweeds can also provide umami amino acids, which impart the fifth flavor of “deliciousness” to foods. 
  • Seaweeds are the best sources of natural iodine on the planet. Iodine is a mineral essential for healthy thyroid function and proper infant and child development. 
  • Consuming small amounts of seaweed—a recommended 3-5 grams, or about a teaspoon to a tablespoon—daily is great for your health. It can help contribute to healthy weight and gut health, remineralization of the blood, improved immune function and skin health, and provide essential ocean based nutrients in a vegetarian form. 
  • Select seaweeds cultivated in clean water, preferably domestically and organically grown.
  • Support the development of small-scale, independent, cooperative, and organic aquaculture in our coastal zones.  

Our Connection

Sarah’s connection with our Science Center started in 2008 when she was a fishery observer for our region for two years. She then pursued a master’s degree at the University of Connecticut. Her graduate research looked at the effects of temperature and ocean acidification on the early growth stages of sugar kelp and was funded by the NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program. Sarah then worked as a marine extension associate with Maine Sea Grant and University of Maine Cooperative Extension between 2012 and 2016. There she worked with Maine Sea Grant staff, other researchers, and the seaweed industry in our region on a variety of projects. Her efforts included the development of new nursery cultivation techniques for native seaweed species. Her outreach included seaweed festival development, research conferences, and technology exchanges with aquaculture industries in other countries. She also worked with companies and restaurants in Maine to develop new products incorporating Maine seaweed.

Maine Sea Grant is part of a NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, a network of 34 individual programs located in each of the coastal and Great Lakes states. Together, these programs form a national network of over 300 participating institutions involving more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students, and outreach experts. Maine Sea Grant promotes science and education for the sustainable development, management, and stewardship of Maine’s marine and coastal resources. 


For more information, please contact Heather Soulen.

Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on April 01, 2021