Shellfish cover a wide range of animals, from abalone to octopus, but not everything is as different as you think. Edible shellfish are divided into two main categories: crustaceans, including crabs and shrimp, and molluscs, which include subspecies called mussels, gastropods and cephalopods. Each shellfish group has a texture and taste that can help you understand the best selection and preparation methods.
Credit: Aneese / iStock / Getty Images Lobster for sale in a market.
Crustaceans: crabs and shrimp
Certification: kukhunthod / iStock / Getty Images Cooking shrimp on a small charcoal grill.
Shellfish, including crabs, lobsters, shrimp, lobsters and prawns, shed and multiply their shells regularly as part of a process called change. Because molting reduces the taste and texture of meat, wild crustaceans are usually seasonally available after hardening new peels. Cooking crustaceans in their bowls enhances the sweet taste of the meat. You can also remove the crustacean shells before cooking and cooking the shells separately to form a spicy stock.
Mussels: Oysters and mussels
Credit Card: Kondor83 / iStock / Getty Images A plate of raw oyster.
Mussels, mussels, oysters and scallops belong to a group of molluscs called mussels. They have two bowls of meat that can be eaten raw or slightly cooked. Fresh mustaches open their shells during cooking, possibly destroying unopened trays. Scallops, the most tender mussels, are often sold outside the shell. Buy dried scallops that have recently been caught or frozen in the sea. wet scallops are treated with chemicals to preserve them.
Gastropods: Acronyms and snails
credit: Shaiith / iStock / Getty Images Baked snails with garlic butter.
Gastropods, also called "univalves", are single-shell molluscs, such as avocados, snails, limpets and whelks – a kind of sea snail. Gastropods are not as common as other shellfish species, perhaps because their flesh is generally tough enough. To make the fresh gastropods tender, some cooks remove the meat from the shell and pick it up before cooking for a short time. With the exception of abalone, gastropods are more likely to be canned than fresh.
Cephalopods: squid and octopus
Credit Cards: Lambros Kazan / iStock / Getty Images A close-up detail of a cooked octopus railing.
Although squid, cuttlefish and squid do not have an outer shell, they are considered shellfish because they belong to a group of molluscs known as cephalopods. Cephalopods have a dense, hard flesh and a mild taste. Both tentacles and body walls are edible, but body content must be removed before cooking, along with skin, eyes and beak. Cook the cephalopods quickly so they do not chew or simmer for at least an hour to soften.