10 Examples of Shelled Seafood and Their Shelf Life

10 examples of shelled seafood

Seafood is not only exotic, but also a wonderful alternative to red meat. Read on to learn about 10 examples of shelled seafood and their shelf life.

There are two major types:

  • Crustaceans – include crab, lobster, shrimp, langoustine, prawns and crayfish
  • Mollusks – include oysters, scallops, clams and mussels

Here is a brief description of each:


Crab is a crustacean invertebrate. This means that it has no vertebral column such as a backbone. It is also encased in a hard shell or crust with protruding 10 limbs.

Crab is found in all coastal regions of both fresh and salty waters. Others are semi-terrestrial and can be found in sandy, rocky areas.

There are thousands of crab species, though some are threatened with extinction. Females have wider abdomen compared to males.

They are omnivorous and are highly prized for their flesh. Crab is also worldwide delicacy prepared in many ways – crab cakes, burgers, crab omelets, it is incorporated in salads, soups, dips, fritters, pastas and sandwiches.


These luxurious crustaceans invade numerous habitats such as shallow waters, deep seas, oceans, underwater caves and rocky surfaces. Most love the deep, ocean floors for safety and ease of obtaining food.

There are over 50 different lobster species of different colors. Some have claws while others are clawless (no pun intended).

When cooked, their shells change to a deep orange hue. They make a wonderful delicacy with a refreshing flavor. Lobsters are usually enjoyed in soups, fish dishes, pasta dishes and salads.


These are some of the most common and popular seafood. Thousands of shrimp species exist all over the world in major water bodies – both fresh and salty. They also prefer the sandy bottoms where they burrow.

Shrimps are small in size and make popular seafood delicacies. Get to savor them as follows – shrimp cocktails, grilled shrimps, shrimp on pasta, gumbo dishes, risottos, pan fried shrimp with garlic and salads.


These guys closely resemble lobsters. They go by different names such as crawdad, mudbug, crawfish or mountain lobster.

They mainly inhabit freshwater bodies, although others can be found in salty or brackish waters. You are also likely to find them in swamps, muddy pools, creeks, lakes or streams.

Crayfish are nocturnal and exist in hundreds of species. They are prepared and served in many dishes. Examples include crawfish burgers, pies, chowders, fritters, gumbo, ravioli and beignets.


“The world is your oyster” is a famous phrase attributed to Shakespeare. It simply means you can achieve great things in life, if you pursue them relentlessly. In other words, in order for you to obtain pearls, you have to crack open the oysters.

The world of oysters is quite interesting. Did you know there are oysters commonly used for food and others purposely used for commercial pearl extraction? Although both are edible, they belong to different species.

These bivalve mollusks are some of the most exotic seafood and are found in salty habitats.

Oysters grow together and will form reef-like clusters in rocks, piers and underwater surfaces. These clusters are vital for marine ecosystems as they provide shelter for other aquatic animals. They also act as barriers against storms, floods and waves.

They are usually cooked and served in their hard-to-crack shells but you have to scoop out the slimy flesh. Other people prefer them raw.


These beauties are also salty water inhabitants. Scallops are bivalves which can be found roaming around the waters or clinging to rocks. The most commonly used ones are harvested.

There are two major types commonly used – sea and bay scallops, although bay scallops are not as popular as sea ones. Bay scallops are tiny.

Rock scallops are rarely used, unless by individuals who will take the time to remove them from rocks.

Scallops are commonly sold when shelled. Popular scallop recipes include pan-seared, broiled, baked or poached scallops.


Clams are also bivalve mollusks with over 150 known species. They are synonymous with burying themselves in sandy sea bottoms.

Clams inhabit freshwater bodies but can also be found in rivers, oceans and reefs.

In the fish section of stores, you will find clams in different forms – whole (unshelled), shucked or half-shelled.

There are plenty of simple clam recipes – steamed clams, paella, clam chowder, grilled and boiled clams.


Like clams, mussels thrive in sandy beds of water bodies. Mussels do well in high quality water since they obtain food by filtering out water.

They are mostly sedentary, but in case of movement, mussels use a singular foot-like protrusion which helps them burrow through. This ‘limb’ also serves as an anchor. They use their shells as protection.

Hundreds of mussel species are found in North American water bodies, with other few species scattered across the world.

Mussel recipes abound, with the common ones including the classic French mussels, steamed mussels and seafood stews.


Prawns have a striking resemblance with shrimps. These crustaceans exist worldwide in major water bodies and love the bottom pits. Majority of them can be found on freshwaters, although others appear on salty waters.

Prawns come in thousands of species, each having unique features, colors and sizes.

Prawns are sold in different forms – frozen prawn meat, whole or shelled prawns.

They are readily available and has their own tasty spot in any seafood cuisines. They are easy to prepare. Prawns can be steamed, grilled, used on burgers, stir-fried or used in seafood stews.


These lesser known shelled seafood are actually popular in Europe. Here, they are commonly known as Norway lobster or Dublin bay shrimp.

They are highly harvested in Scotland, which accounts for the highest langoustine production than any other country.

They are related to crawfish, but thrive in salty waters unlike crawfish which live in freshwaters.

Small langoustines are popular for their tail meat, otherwise known as scampi in any eating joint selling seafood dishes.

How long do shelled seafood last?

Any type of seafood is highly perishable. As such, they are popularly frozen to extend their shelf life.

Apart from canned seafood which can be stored in the pantry when unopened, all other seafood should be refrigerated or frozen. If possible, only buy sizeable portions that can be consumed at once.

Fresh and cooked seafood have the shortest shelf life. For instance, live crab in shell remains viable for 12 hours. Most deteriorate between 5 – 10 days.

From these 10 examples of shelled seafood and their shelf life, none is safe to consume past the use by date.

Shucked frozen seafood last longer, from 3 – 9 months.

Canned seafood can stretch for a long time when unopened and frozen – up to 18 months.

Spoilage indicators

It is fairly easy to recognize rotten seafood. Here’s how:

  • Foul, sour smell similar to rotten eggs.
  • Dull, discolored, dry skin. Fresh seafood have wet or moist skin.
  • Open shells in any bivalve indicates death.

There are countless seafood available. The above 10 examples of shelled seafood and their shelf life give a small representation of what is out there.

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