What seafood can I eat raw?
There’s a big debate out there (and some polarizing opinions) as to which seafood is acceptable to eat raw. Whether it’s for sushi, sashimi, crudo or tartare…What seafood makes makes the cut? And, which are destined only for the heat?
Here, we’ll clear the debate and give you some resources to follow when preparing cooked or raw dishes. Now, nearly every fish and shellfish from the sea is edible, this is not a determination on whether or not you should eat them, more of a categorization of how you should prepare them. Especially, If you are a fan of raw seafood (like me)!
Let’s get started…
Raw Seafood Approved
Japan is really the epicenter of raw seafood preparation. The West has just barely begun to scratch the surface of raw applications, and, building from Japanese inspiration, started implementing these techniques into other cuisine-types.
So, it is from the sushi bar that I’m netting the best seafood to eat raw.
Tuna is the most popular choice for raw recipes. Firm and meaty, it has fabulous texture and mild flavor, lending itself well to many different sauces, seasonings and marinades.
Featured Recipe: Tuna Tartare by Williams Sonoma
Salmon is another popular pick as a raw dish main. Smooth and rich, it’s texture is unctuous and flavor mild. It’s also a favorite for curing and pickling (although, those cooking techniques are not ‘necessarily’ considered raw).
Featured Recipe: Salmon Poke Bowl by Tasty
Flounder (or fluke) is an unsung hero of the raw seafood world. Delicate and tender, it’s very mild and extremely lean.
Featured Recipe: Fluke Crudo with Meyer Lemon by Food Republic
Sea Bass, similar to flounder, is a raw wonder-fish. Mild, tender and lean.
Featured Recipe: Sea Bass Carpaccio with Coriander and Grapefruit by Food & Wine
Another addition to our white fish family, the humble snapper. Snapper has a little more to offer in terms of ‘firmness’ than flounder and sea bass, which makes it a great contender for ceviche (can withstand some marinating in citrus or vinegar).
Featured Recipe: Snapper Ceviche by Bon Appetit
Must be Cooked
Break out the pots and pans, these critters need to be cooked!
All crabs (crab legs, whole crabs and crab meat) should be cooked. I’m not offering this as a challenge for those looking to consume all things raw, more of a…not really possible. It’s just about impossible to eat a raw crab. The meat is so moisture-dense that picking it from the shell is a futile endeavor. If you need an example, think of the Tom Hanks movie Castaway, where he tries to eat a raw crab…it’s like that. Most crab dishes that you see as ‘raw’ are actually pickled at great lengths. Meaning that the meat is gently ‘cooked’ over-time by the acids (vinegar, wine or citrus) in the recipe.
Safety is a factor as well. Crabs, being sea bottom dwellers, are not the choosiest when it comes to what they eat for supper. Play it safe and cook your crabbies.
Shrimp are another one in the ‘why bother’ eating it raw category. There are some sushi techniques that serve raw shrimp but the texture and flavor are greatly improved with cooking. Leave raw shrimp to the sushi masters and cook them.
In the same vein as crabs and shrimp, lobster should be cooked as well. Just not that texturally appealing when served raw. And, like crabs, are our ocean’s scavengers. Safety first! Cook your lobsters.
Are you seeing a pattern? Yes, crawfish too. These little guys need the heat. Texture, flavor and safety are all factors for cooking your crawfish.
Somewhere in the Middle
These are our seafood outliers that sort of fall in the middle…cooked, undercooked or raw…They can technically be served either way. Let me explain more…
Many sushi restaurants have a scallop sashimi or sushi option, where the scallop is served raw. Scallops are also really fab in ceviche or crudos, where they sit in a little acid for a bit and firm up slightly. I am also a fan of seared scallops that are slightly undercooked in the center, makes them super tender. So… scallops are pretty universal.
For cooking at home, I would stick to searing, grilling and baking. Or recipes that cure or pickle the scallops, for a bit, in an acidic marinade.
Oysters, Clams and Mussels
I’m sure some of you were wondering why these guys were missing from the ‘raw list’. Here’s the scoop. Yes, you can eat them raw. But, I would do so in a restaurant that specializes in fresh caught, shucked on site, raw bar. Or, if you are ordering (and slurping) direct from the source (the oyster/clam/mussel purveyor or fisherman). The reason is safety. Restaurants and direct sourced suppliers have a safety measure in place, something called shell-stock tags. These tags are stored on file and list when and where these mollusks were harvested.
Frozen mollusks, or pre-shucked mollusks (that you’d find in the grocery store) should be cooked.
Buy Seafood Online
You can buy all of the delicious seafood listed in this article from our online store. All of Cameron’s Seafood comes straight from the sea to your door with guaranteed freshness. Perfect for raw and cooked applications.
Show us how you serve Cameron’s Seafood. Whether you like it raw or cooked -we’d love to hear from you. Post your own Cameron’s Seafood dish on Instagram and tag us @cameronsseafoodonline. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter, we look forward seeing your creations.
About the author
Patterson Watkins is a professional chef with over 17 years of experience. With a robust career in restaurants, contract dining and catering (including 4 Summer Olympic posts preparing food for the athletes!) Patterson joined the Cameron's Seafood team at the end of 2018 to concoct some delicious recipes with our premium seafood items as the centerpiece.