pacific oysters on the half shell

How to Check the Freshness of Shellfish

Whether you’re adding shellfish to your menu or hosting for a special occasion, knowing how to check the freshness of shellfish is crucial. Shrimp, oysters, and crab that are truly fresh work for you before you even start cooking. Knowing how to check the freshness of shellfish will give you a leg up in delighting your customers and guests. Below, we give guidelines you can use to check the freshness of different types of shellfish. 

Shrimp 

fresh raw peeled pacific shrimp

How to Check the Freshness of Shrimp 

  • no smell
  • no slime 
  • flesh should be clear and pearl-like
  • meat should be firm
  • no black dots 

How long does shrimp last in the fridge? 

  • Shelled: 1-2 days 
  • Shell on: 3-4 days 
  • Cooked: 3-4 days 
  • Frozen: 5-7 days 

How long does shrimp last in the freezer? 

6-12 months 

Sustainability Rating: Rock shrimp – Good Alternative 

Crunchy, juicy, and versatile, shrimp is a go-to for parties and menus. Note that the size of shrimp is indicated in the number per pound, indicated as a “#/#” spec. For example, 31/35 means the pack contains 31-35 shrimp per pound, indicating that the shrimp are large. When deciding what specs to go for, think about opportunity costs. For convenience, choose shell off (more expensive). For optimal moisture and quality, go for shell on or head on (more affordable). 

Oysters

shucked pacific oyster

Reading Oyster Tags

Initial Harvest Date: the date the oysters were harvested the farm

Final Harvest Date or Wet Storage Date: the date the oysters were pulled from the water holding tank to be packed and shipped

How to Check the Freshness of Oysters 

  • fresh ocean scent
  • no cracks in the shell
  • tightly closed 
  • react to a gentle tap 
  • meat is shiny, creamy, and moist 

How long do oysters last in the fridge? 

  • In the shell: 14 days after harvest for best quality, but can last up to 30 days after harvest (see experiment by Pangea Shellfish Company
  • Shucked: see “use by” date 
  • Shucked on ice: 10 days 
  • Cooked: 3 days 

How long do oysters last in the freezer? 

  • Shucked: 6 months 

Sustainability Rating: Pacific Oysters – Best Choice 

There is nothing more refreshing than a juicy oyster. Oyster sizes include BBQ (4-6 in.), small (3-4 in.), and extra small (2-3 in.), with smalls and extra smalls commonly served at oyster bars. Learning to shuck oysters can be quite an experience, check out our oyster shucking video for a tutorial. In the U.S. oysters are farmed on both coasts, but Pacific Oysters are prized as the best oysters in the world. Varieties of pacific oysters are named after the bay they come from (Totten Inlet, Hama Hama, etc.), and are chosen by personal preference. 

Clams

bag of manila clams

How to Check the Freshness of Clams 

  • fresh ocean scent
  • no cracks 
  • tightly closed 
  • react to a gentle tap 

How long to clams last in the fridge? 

  • Fresh: 1-2 days 
  • Cooked: 3-4 days 

How long do clams last in the freezer? 

Raw: 3 months 

Sustainability Rating: Manila & Little Neck – Best Choice 

Clams elevate pastas and paellas around the world. From largest to smallest, west coast clams include Chowders (aka Quahogs), Top Necks, Little Necks, and Manilas. Manilas are the most widely cultivated clam in the world and are the sweetest clams you’ll find. 

Mussels

bag of prince edward island mussels on a scale

How to Check the Freshness of Mussels 

  • fresh ocean scent
  • no cracks 
  • tightly closed, or remain closed when pushed together 
  • shiny shell 

How long to mussels last in the fridge? 

  • Fresh: 1-2 days 
  • Cooked: 3-4 days 

How long do mussels last in the freezer 

Raw: 3-4 months 

Sustainability Rating: Blue and Green – Best Choice 

Often paired with a creamy, buttery white wine sauce, mussels look and taste amazing. Varieties include Mediterranean mussels (most meat), Blue mussels (a.k.a. Prince Edward Island, which are smaller and pack an intense flavor), and Green-lip mussels (large and cultivated in New Zealand). 

Scallops 

scallops in a tote

How to Check the Freshness of Scallops 

  • fresh ocean scent
  • no cracks 
  • will close when tapped 
  • Shucked – meat should be pale and firm 

How long to scallops last in the fridge? 

  • Fresh: 1-2 days 
  • Cooked: 3-4 days 

How long do scallops last in the freezer? 

Raw: 3-6 months 

Sustainability Rating: Off-Bottom Culture – Best Choice 

The sweet taste and golden sear of scallops put seafood lovers in a daze. When buying shucked scallops, opt for dry-packed, as these won’t excrete extra liquid, allowing you to get a nice sear. 

Crab and Lobster 

sea of dungeness crab

How to Check the Freshness of Crab and Lobster 

  • no smell 
  • no cracks 
  • lively

How long does crab/lobster last in the fridge? 

  • Live: 1-2 days 
  • Cooked Crab: 5-7 days 
  • Cooked Lobster: 3-4 days 

How long does crab/lobster last in the freezer? 

  • Cooked Crab: 6 months 
  • Cooked Lobster: 9-12 months 

Sustainability Rating: Dungeness – Good Alternative; American Lobster – Best Choice 

The sound of cracking crab legs is music to a seafood lover’s ears. Lobster tails soaked in butter draw crowds. Not all crab and lobsters are created equal, though. Dungeness crabs, caught on the west coast, are the most prized crab in the world with their sweet, nutty taste. For lobster, it is widely agreed that Maine is home to the best. 

Start Right – Check the Freshness of Your Shellfish 

Delight awaits your customers and guests when you start with fresh shellfish. In addition to the guidelines listed above, having accurate information plays a big role in your shellfish purchasing decisions. Choose a shellfish supplier that has high standards of safety and traceability. They should be able give you information on the harvest dates and harvest locations. To learn more, see our blog post, How to Choose a Seafood Supplier.


Pucci Foods is a 100 year old seafood distributor based in Hayward, California. We are known for going above and beyond for our customers in supplying quality seafood in a sustainable way. From fresh wild catch to affordable, sustainably farmed species, we are the seafood solution for restaurants, retailers, institutions, and wholesalers who are looking for fresh quality, committed care, and sustainable satisfaction.

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