How to Store and Handle Seafood
Follow these best practices for properly storing and handling seafood in your home.
Once you’ve made your seafood purchase and take it home, be sure that you properly store and handle it. Seafood is more perishable than most other food items, so careful handling is important. Remember to follow the tips below to “keep it cold, keep it moving, and keep it clean.”
Keep It Cold
Purchase seafood last during your shopping trip, and bring a cooler to transport it home. If you’ve caught your own fish, bury them in ice immediately or use an ice slush with two parts ice to one part water to keep your catch cold.
At home, store seafood in the coldest part of your refrigerator at a temperature as close to 32° F as possible.
To store fresh fish, pack whole dressed fish on ice in the refrigerator. Seal fillets and steaks in plastic bags or containers, and cover them with ice in a pan. Wash fish that is not prepackaged under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Wrap it in moisture-proof paper or plastic wrap or place it in a plastic bag or air-tight container, then place on ice in the refrigerator. Drain the pan and add more ice as necessary.
To freeze fresh fish, wrap it tightly in moisture-proof bags or in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and store it in the freezer.
Place shellfish purchased live in its shell (mussels, clams, and oysters) in a dry shallow pan, cover it with moistened paper towels, and refrigerate it. Place shucked shellfish in a sealed container and freeze. Store fresh shrimp, scallops, and squid in a zippered bag or airtight container and refrigerate on ice.
Keep It Moving
Shelf life varies by species, but a good rule of thumb is to use fresh fish within 2 days of purchase. Check out the National Fisheries Institute’s Seafood Storage Guide for the shelf life of a variety of fresh and frozen seafood.
Keep It Clean
When working with seafood, keep your hands, work area, and utensils clean. Keep raw seafood away from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. Use cutting boards that are easy to clean—plastic, acrylic, or rubber—instead of wood. Finally, be sure to serve your cooked seafood on clean plates, not on a plate that held the raw product.
For more information on safely selecting, storing, and preparing seafood, check out the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s information on Fresh and Frozen Seafood: Selecting and Serving It Safely.
Want to learn more about seafood but don’t know where to start? Our Sustainable Seafood Directory arms you with the facts about what makes U.S. seafood sustainable—from the ocean or farm to your plate. You can find recipes for the U.S. seafood you love, get up-to-date information on the status of harvested marine fish and farmed fish, and learn more about U.S. seafood.