How to store live clams, mussels & oysters
Cooking with mussels, clams & oysters is not difficult, the key is to clean and store them properly. The important thing to remember is that mussels and clams are alive and you want to keep them alive until you cook them. Here is what you need to remember:
You want to store mussels, clams and oysters in refrigerated temperatures about 35 degrees fahrenheit. If they get too warm they will die. Consider transporting them home in an ice chest.
How to Store Clams
When you buy shellfish, they will often be packaged in a plastic bag. Keep the top of the bag open while you transport them so they can breath. When you get home transfer them into an open container.
For clams and oysters, place them in a bowl and cover with a damp towel. Do not submerge them in water. You can surround the container in ice, but do not submerge them in ice. Alternatively, they can be stored in the fridge in a burlap bag.
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How to Store Mussels
As soon as you can, take the mussels out of their packaging and transfer them into a colander and cover with ice. Put the colander inside a bowl so the ice drains off as it melts - don’t allow the mussels to be submerged in water or they will drown. Store the mussels in the fridge or a cooler and they should be fine for at least 24 hours.
Skip the cornmeal or breadcrumbs
Some recipes will tell you to put live shellfish in a bowl of water and sprinkle cornmeal or breadcrumbs on top of them. Do not do this. The idea was that the shellfish will feed on the cornmeal and clean out their grit. This process only shortens their lives.
Right before cooking scrub the shells under cold water to remove any debris.
How to tell if your shellfish are still alive
The first test is to smell them. If they smell fresh like the sea, they are good. If they are stinky, toss them.
The second test is the squeeze test. If you find some of your shell fish have opened, give them a little squeeze. If they try to close on their own, they are still alive. If they spring open, toss them.
The final test, is cooking them. Discard any shellfish that do not open on their own when they are cooked.
How long can you store live shellfish?
In proper containers, fresh shellfish can be stored at least 24 hours and some sources say 48 hours. I prefer to buy them the same day I eat them.