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SafeOysters.org - Consumers

Vibrio vulnificus

Infection from Consumption of Raw
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Safely Cooking Oysters and Other Molluscan Shellfish

What are some ways to cook shellfish?

Oysters, clams, and mussels can be poached, steamed, boiled, sautéed, stir fried, deep fried, baked, broiled, or grilled. Since most shellfish is smaller and more delicate than fish, they usually cook faster.

How do I cook live (in-shell) oysters, clams, and mussels?

When boiling or steaming live clams, oysters, and mussels, use small pots and do not overload them because the shellfish in the middle may not get fully cooked. The Food & Drug Administration recommends:

  • Boil shellfish for 3 to 5 minutes after shells open, or
  • Place shellfish in pot with boiling water and steam for 4 to 9 minutes.

Discard any shellfish that do not open during cooking.

How do I cook shucked (shells removed) oysters?

The Food & Drug Administration recommends cooking shucked shellfish in one of the following ways:

  • Boil for 3 minutes,
  • Broil 3 inches from heat for 3 minutes,
  • Deep fry at 375°F for at least 3 minutes,
  • Bake (as in oysters Rockefeller) for 10 minutes at 450°F.

Shucked shellfish becomes plump and opaque when cooked and ready to eat; edges of oysters start to curl. You may need to increase the above cooking times when preparing a large quantity of shellfish or a recipe, like a casserole or stuffing, which includes additional ingredients.

What are some other guidelines to ensure a safe eating experience?

Don't forget proper food handling techniques. The following suggestions will help you handle and prepare shellfish (and other seafood) safely:

  • Before starting food preparation, be sure that the preparation area and all surfaces, utensils, pots, containers, and serving dishes are clean.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before preparing food or working with new foods or utensils and after finishing food preparation, handling raw meat or poultry, using the bathroom, changing diapers, petting animals, coughing or sneezing into your hands, blowing your nose, smoking, eating or taking out the garbage.
  • Don't let juices from raw seafood, meat, or poultry come into contact with each other or with other foods, especially cooked or ready-to-eat ones (like lettuce, fresh fruits, or lunch meats).
  • Wash cutting boards, utensils, counters, sinks, and hands with hot, soapy water after preparing raw seafood, meat, or poultry
  • Keep your fingernails clean, and use clean (laundered) dishwashing cloths and towels. Better yet, use disposable materials (like paper towels) for cleaning, and don't reuse them.
  • Use plastic cutting boards instead of wooden ones, which are porous and more difficult to keep clean. Replace plastic boards with deep cuts in which bacteria can accumulate.
  • Don't taste meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood when they are raw or during cooking.
  • Serve cooked shellfish on a clean plate, never the same, unwashed plate that was used to hold raw product.
  • Discard cooked or raw seafood that has been held at room temperature for 2 or more hours.

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Updated: 3/9/2009 - Send comments or questions to:web editor.