Remember that scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts’s character wrestles with snail tongs and her buttery mollusk ends up flying across the room? Luckily, in real life, seafood tools aren't quite as challenging—and the right ones make preparing and eating shellfish and fillets much easier.
Are you a bit intimidated by common seafood tools? Do you feel at sea when it comes to sautéing salmon or boiling a lobster? Fortunately, this handy guide can help. You’ll learn how each tool is used as well as pick up some smart tips for cooking fish and shellfish at home. The goal: tasty meals that are a breeze to serve and enjoy.
You may already own kitchen scissors for snipping herbs or cutting up poultry pieces, but seafood scissors are specially crafted with curved blades that slice through tough shells to free shrimp, crab, and lobster intact (whole pieces mean your recipes look a lot prettier).
How to use: Apply this tool’s built-in cracker to a lobster claw or tail or crab leg to break it a bit. Next, insert the blade along the shell’s edge or spine and cut evenly to reveal the meat. You may need to shear in sections to remove more shell and pluck out larger pieces.
Shrimp Deveiner & Cleaner
Shelling and deveining shrimp is slippery business, which is why seafood tools that carry out both tasks are so handy. Even with wet shrimp you can get a solid grip with this shrimp deveiner to remove both the shell and the gritty dark vein (the intestinal tract).
How to use: For cleaned and deveined shrimp, place the tool just under the back of the shrimp shell by the head. Gently rock the tool forward following the curve of the body to slice open the shell. Next, remove the shell pieces and use the tip of the blade to lift out the exposed vein.
Nope, not every spatula is the same. In fact, a fish turner is longer, more flexible, and thinner so you can gently flip over delicate fillets or crab cakes with ease. And this spatula sports long slots so liquid can pour away when you’re moving a fillet that’s poaching.
How to use: Insert the fish spatula (sometimes called a slotted offset spatula) carefully under a flounder fillet, salmon steak, or seafood pancake. Make a clean, decisive flip so it can cook on the other side. Resist moving fish around too much lest it break apart in the pan.
With a little practice and this nifty oyster knife, a raw bar experience at home is just minutes away. Prying open a tight oyster, clam, or mussel is best accomplished with the right knife as the angled steel blade and sharp point can both open the mollusk and loosen the briny treat inside.
How to use: Protect your hands with shucking gloves or secure the shellfish (flat side up) on a kitchen towel. Insert the tip of the knife into the back hinge and firmly wiggle it until it starts to release. Rotate the knife to open the shell and move it to the side to open it fully. Use the blade to separate the muscle from the top shell, then take off this piece and scrape along the bottom shell to free the oyster.
Lobster Cracker & Seafood Pick
Spiny crab and lobster shells are no match for a sturdy cracker, and a seafood pick digs out the sweetest knuckle and leg meat. The long tines and spoon end can reach into tiny crevices, plus the set is attractive enough to use on a home bar for spearing cocktail garnishes, like olives.
How to use: Place the claw or tail piece in between the two handles of the seafood cracker and press down, moving it along the limb to break it in a few places. Remove shell to free the meat and use a seafood pick to dislodge smaller bits.
Want to open lobsters plus Alaskan king crabs while also relieving stress? This great-looking seafood mallet delivers on both. The best part: The flat ends of the mallet can crush tough exteriors without mashing the tender meat inside.
How to use: Fold the crab or lobster inside a kitchen towel to corral any mess. Give it a few good whacks with the mallet—and voilà!
5 Quick Tips for Cooking Fish and Shellfish at Home
No one likes an overcooked (or undercooked) fillet or watery lobster meat. With these five easy tips, you’ll nail delicious seafood meals your family will love, every single time.
Ask for help. Whether it’s about freshness, preparation, or for help removing bones or skin, don’t hesitate to ask the fishmonger. They can also offer smart advice when it comes to how many clams to buy for a linguine recipe or how long to cook a fillet or whole fish.
Keep it fresh. It’s a wise idea to consume raw fish and shellfish quickly after purchase, which means cook it or freeze it for future use within a day or two, per the USDA(Opens in a new window). At home, store fish in the fridge in a plastic bag over a bowl of ice so it stays cool (aim for around 40 degrees F).
Start skin side down. Love crispy salmon skin? Start your cooking in a very hot pan with the skin side down. Press on it with your fish turner so it lays flat and resist moving the fillet around. It’ll stick at first, but after about five minutes it should release and be easy to flip over.
Season simply. Most fish don't require heavy sauces or a lot of spice so be a minimalist with your preparations. Lemon and butter are classic with lobster and olive oil, salt, and pepper are pretty excellent on most fillets, though you can also use a maple mustard glaze or one made with miso, sugar, rice vinegar, and soy sauce when you’re in the mood to amp up the flavors.
Time it carefully. When it comes to cooking times, shrimp is ready when it’s opaque and pinkish in color. As for fish, bake, sauté or broil it for 10 minutes per inch (measured from the thickest part). Delicate fish can dry out quickly and lots of options are done in less than 15 minutes, so pull it out sooner to check.