The most important considerations in the safe handling of seafood are cleanliness, temperature and time. Keep your hands, preparation area and utensils clean. Never let raw seafood come in contact with cooked foods.
Seafood is highly perishable. Immediately store frozen seafood in the coldest part of the freezer at a temperature as close to -20°F as possible. Commercially frozen seafood can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Defrost fish overnight in the refrigerator to minimize moisture loss. A 1 lb. package will defrost within 24 hours. If you forget to take the seafood out of the freezer in time, place the package in the sink under cold, running water. Never defrost seafood at room temperature or with hot water as bacteria on the surface will begin to multiply.
Always wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before starting food preparation. Don’t let juices from raw seafood come into contact with other food. Wash down surfaces and utensils immediately after preparing seafood. Use a separate cutting board for raw seafood.
Cook fish and shellfish thoroughly. Fish is cooked when it begins to flake and loses its translucent (raw) appearance. Cook fish until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F for at least fifteen seconds. Scallops and shrimp turn firm and opaque when cooked. It takes 3 to 5 minutes to boil or steam one pound of medium-sized shrimp and 3 to 4 minutes to cook scallops. Seafood is usually cooked under moderate to high heat (425°F). You need a reliable, continuous heat source, so do not cook seafood on a hot plate. Avoid interrupted cooking – completely cook the seafood at one time.
If you are microwaving fish, be sure to rotate or stir halfway through the cooking process, cover to retain moisture, heat to an internal temperature of 170°F for 15 seconds, and allow to stand covered for 2 minutes after cooking.
Never put cooked seafood back on the plate that held the raw product. Place leftovers in smaller containers and refrigerate them within 2 hours when the temperature of the food serving area is below 90°F and within 1 hour when the air temperature is 90°F or above.