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Dec 13, 2008 05:43 PM

Storing Fresh Seafood for a Day or Two

I am in charge of my family's Christmas Eve Seven Fishes Dinner this year and I would really rather not have to purchase all of the items on Christmas Eve because my local seafood store will be packed to the gills (hee hee).

So I wanted to ask if I purchase shrimp, scallops, calamari, and mussels a day or two ahead of time, what would be the safest way to store them?

Can they stay in the fridge?

Should I pack them in a cooler with ice (adding ice as needed)?

Any other ideas?


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  1. Just my practice, but I would not keep in the fridge for more than 36 hours or so. It would be perfectly safe if kept longer, but seafood flavor can go downhill pretty rapidly. This is why the supermarket seafood from such brands as Mrs. Paul's and Gorton's is inedible. The freezer is a better option.

    1. Shrimp, buy frozen ahead and thaw in the fridge.

      The rest, I'd buy on the 23rd.

      Scallops and calamari should be okay in their packages.

      Mussels need to be kept in damp newspaper. DO NOT put them in water.

      Keep all in the coldest part of your fridge.

      I would certainly check with your fishmonger.


      1. I agree with the others, Philly.

        Make sure to ask for fresh, never frozen, shrimp, and then you can buy those ahead, freeze and thaw on the 24th, even just before using, by placing in a sieve or colander inside a bowl and running very cold water over them until defrosted. Change the water a few times as you do this.

        The rest of the seafood, the earliest date to purchase would be the 23rd.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Steady Habits

          Sorry, fresh, never frozen shrimp does not exist unless you get Maine shrimp in season or gulf shrimp also in season, both at or near the source. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying. Really, it's better to buy frozen shrimp and defrost as needed. At least then, it's only been frozen once. As for other seafood, anything in the shell, and therefore live, has obviously never been frozen, but people are kidding themselves if they think the fish they buy is "freshly caught". It may be fresh off the boat, but chances are, that boat was at sea for a number of days before it came to port.

          1. re: hilltowner

            That is total nonsense - or at least the idea that you cannot find a shop that sells fresh never frozen is. Even more ridiculous is the idea that you would buy fresh wild caught shrimp and then put them in your freezer!!!!!! Good God!

            Personally I would buy it all early on the 24th and save time by stopping in a few days ahead of time and giving my order in advance.

            1. re: Kater

              i don't think hilltowner was suggesting freezing the wild maine shrimp. however, fact is, nearly all shrimp now sold in the states is farmed and frozen. if you find it not frozen, that's because it's already been thawed. depending on the quality of the fish shop, it could have been frozen & thawed several times over. living on the new england coast, i know i am spoiled, but would never consider buying frozen mussels, scallops, etc. i can get them fresh too easily. i know not everybody shares that geographic advantage. since i have that luck, i also would never consider freezing that stuff after i buy it. it's a waste.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Geography plays into it but it is really just a case of finding and paying for decent shrimp. If you buy you shrimp at the grocery store then yes, it is inedible frozen garbage, usually from China.

                You are particularly lucky to be able to get fresh lobster. I have it flown in a couple of times a year and eat it on vacation. I think that a lot of people have no idea that a live lobster does not equal a fresh lobster!

                1. re: Kater

                  I'm far from an expert. As such, I seek out as much info as I can.

                  My rule is, based on everything I've read, unless it's still alive (lobster, crab, etc.) buy frozen as it's frozen immediately and stays that way until you use it. Even if it's fresh, never frozen, it's still been a few days since it was caught/farmed.
                  I'll let scallops go but seldom buy them fresh.

                  DO NOT buy fresh shrimp with the heads on. It goes south very quickly.

                  Unless I'm right there close to the water. Heck, my in-laws live in Huntsville, Al. Shrimp caught in the morning aren't sold live there. It's all frozen.


                  1. re: Davwud

                    I've done some fishing and diving near shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico. Traded beer for shrimp in the early morning hours to some of the guys on the boat. The shrimp is flash frozen on board. Unless you can get some before they flash freeze it you will not find much shrimp that hasn't been frozen unless you buy it live. We see guys selling live shrimp from their trucks sometimes.

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      I used to fish out of Port Aransas in Texas; it was a 55 mile haul to blue water for sailfish and other pelagic catch-and-release sportfish. But on the way out, we would food-fish for redfish, amberjack, and ling around the oil rigs.
                      Scubadoo97, you mentioned trading beer for shrimp (the shrimpers trawl at night and sleep by day) because the shrimp boat crew are subject to immediate dismissal for selling any of their catch. shrimp for beer became the game. We would bring a couple extra cold cases of lager just to trade for fresh shrimp. They were a mixture of every size. For the lucky few who have enjoyed fresh, never frozen, shrimp, you understand the deliciousness of the experience.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        Just the other side of the Gulf but the games the same.

                    2. re: Davwud

                      Yes, I've read that shrimp are frozen right on the boats (if not farmed). So if you see them thawed, it means that they were once frozen and now aren't. Of course, there are exceptions to that, like in Florida where you can buy them right off the boat.

                      1. re: Davwud

                        I almost always buy fresh shrimp with the heads on for that very reason- if they are going bad it is easier to tell. Of course, we live within 200 miles of the gulf coast, and during the season we can get fresh shrimp from our in-laws in Gulfport/Biloxi- $3.00 a pound or less!

                        1. re: Davwud

                          i buy heads-on shrimp whenever i can, for exactly that reason.

                          also, fried and doused with salt & pepper they are delicious!

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            I meant dead shrimp with heads on. Live with heads on I'd buy for sure.

                            My mistake


              2. I buy my calamari the week before and freeze it until I'm ready to cook. I cook it in tomato sauce, so I just throw it in frozen and cook for a few hours.

                Mussels I also buy and cook the week before, then freeze as well. I freeze it in freezer bags, put in the fridge xmas eve morning, then just heat them in the oven in a dutch oven that evening.

                Shrimp (for shrimp cocktail) gets cooked and frozen the week before, thaw in fridge from the evening before.

                Everything else is bought on the 23rd.

                1 Reply
                1. re: irishnyc

                  as mentioned by hilltowner, 99% of shrimp sold in us markets has been previously frozen. (those fresh maine shrimp are heavenly however, only in very short season, and don't travel well. i had them "in season" once in nyc -- watery lil apostrophes.) i am always disappointed if i buy it thawed shrimp, refreeze and then cook.. the decline in texture and flavor is dramatic.

                  mussels, clams and oysters can live for several days in the fridge -- they basically go into panic mode out of the sea and shut down. just don't put them in any water.

                  buy everything on the 23rd. any fish or scallops, blot dry with paper towels and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. sorry, but fish isn't a do-ahead kind of item. take short-cuts for time elsewhere on your menu.

                2. Wrap it in plastic wrap or a baggie (suck out air with a straw) and lay it in a plastic pan filled with ice or ice packs, and refrigerate. Replace ice as it melts. Don't use a metal pan since that conducts heat and ice will melt faster.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: greygarious

                    This is exactly what I do. Works well. I use those Glad or Ziplock containers and fill with ice.