Like all meats, there are safe temperatures for cooking seafood to reduce your risk of food borne illness. While it's true that some seafood can be eaten raw, it's important to have a strong knowledge of temperature guidelines and how the quality of your catch can affect safety.
Of course, understanding seafood temperatures isn't just about safety — it's also a crucial measuring tool for ensuring your protein doesn't get overcooked. One of the great advantages of preparing seafood is how quickly it can be cooked. Unfortunately, this also opens the door for dramatic overcooking if you aren't paying attention. And trust us when we say that no one likes rubbery seafood.
Luckily, temperature preferences are here to help. With the right guidelines in place, you can cook safe and delicious seafood every time. Let's discuss.
Why does seafood overcook so easily?
The muscle fibers in fish and shellfish are significantly shorter than the muscle fibers in meats like beef and chicken. This makes seafood much more sensitive to heat — a bonus if you're in a hurry, but a potential catastrophe if you get distracted while cooking. That's why a meat thermometer can be your best friend in the kitchen.
Internal temperatures and how to measure
- Salmon: Aim for an internal temperature between 125 and 140 degrees F, erring on the lower side for a more "medium" finish. Simply insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the filet to check.
- Halibut: This firmer fish should be cooked between 130 and 135 degrees F. Just like salmon, you'll insert your thermometer into the thickest part to check.
- Lobster and Crab: Measure the temperature in the tail or the thickest part of the crab leg and cook to an even 140 degrees F.
- Shrimp: You only need to cook your shrimp to 120 degrees F, but keep a close eye on them — they'll overcook quickly. One of the easiest ways to tell shrimp is done cooking is by watching the shape. As they begin to curve into a "c" shape, they're cooked through, but if they curve all the way into an "o" shape, they may be overcooked.
In general, avoid eating raw fish unless you can guarantee that it is sushi-grade and from a high-quality, trusted source. Ceviche is a great option for eating raw fish at home since the protein is "cured" in a citrus solution. Here's how to confidently make ceviche at home.
With this guide in mind, go forth and cook some seafood at the perfect temperature!Shop seafood.