9 Types of Shellfish That Are Easier to Cook at Home Than You Think
You and shrimp go way back. In fact, it’s one of your go-to proteins for quick weeknight dinners, since it cooks up in a flash. But it’s far from the only shellfish you can tackle at home—there are a ton of other tasty types to experiment with. In fact, there are two categories of shellfish: crustaceans (like crab and lobster) and mollusks, which include bivalves (like clams and mussels) and cephalopods (like squid and octopus). Here are nine types of shellfish that you can easily pull off at home, plus recipes to get you started.
Scientific name: Caridea
Shrimp: They’re easy to clean, beyond versatile and ready to devour in minutes. They’re also pretty darn healthy, since they’re loaded with protein while being low in calories and fat. Shrimp are also essentially interchangeable with prawns, another similar species of crustacean that has a straighter body and a different gill and claw structure. Shrimp can be served hot or cold (hellooo, cocktail shrimp) and pair wonderfully with pasta, raw or grilled veggies, tropical fruit and citrus.
Scientific name: Brachyura
Crabs take a bit of effort to enjoy, but once you get past their tough exteriors, you’ll be rewarded with soft, tender meat. Its meatiest parts are usually the legs and claws, and the meat can be extracted after boiling, roasting, steaming or even grilling the crab. Popular types include king crab, which is famous for its large claws, and softshell crab, which are blue crabs that have recently molted their shells but haven’t yet grown a new one. Crab is commonly used in dips, pastas, seafood salads and sushi, but its most popular iteration is arguably crab cakes. Crab also lends itself beautifully to decadent dishes, like creamy pasta, and melted butter.
Scientific name: Nephropidae
Lobster is the quintessential fancy dinner for a reason—that reason being its melt-in-your-mouth texture. They can be cooked whole (boiling lobster at home is easier than you think), but most of the succulent meat is in the tails, legs and claws. Lobster is most beloved in the Northeastern U.S. in states like Maine and Massachusetts. The only dish we’d choose over a butter-drenched, lemon-kissed lobster tail is likely a lobster roll, a toasty bun piled high with mayo-y, citrusy lobster salad.
Scientific name: Mytilus edulis
Don’t let their shells intimidate you: Mussels are famously easy to prepare, since their shells open when they’re fully cooked. They’re usually steamed in a flavorful broth or sauce, typically red sauce or garlicky white wine sauce. Mussels need to be kept alive before they’re cooked, so they can only be refrigerated for a day or two, tops. They’re proof that sometimes, simple is better: All you need to enjoy them in a bottle of vino and a hunk of crusty bread for soaking up the leftover sauce.
Scientific name: Bivalvia
Clams are a lot like oysters in terms of texture, but have a uniquely sweet, rich flavor. They’re often steamed and served raw in their half-shells for easy slurping (or cooked with bacon and breadcrumbs for clams casino). Like mussels, this bivalve pairs wonderfully with pasta, citrus, garlic and white wine, but clams are also delicious baked, fried and in creamy New England-style clam chowder.
Scientific name: Pectinidae
Odds are you might not know scallops are bivalves since they’re usually sold without their shells. Scallops are arguably the most tender and succulent of all the bivalves, making them a go-to protein for fancy dinners and intimate date nights. Their delicate, buttery flavor allows them to pair with everything from lemony pasta to charred bacon. At your supermarket, you’ll likely see two options: bay scallops, which are small, sweet and best for seafood stews, and sea scallops which are about triple the size and most delicious when seared in butter.
Scientific name: Ostreidae
Of all the popular bivalves, oysters are arguably the most divisive. They have a sticky, almost gooey texture and a brinier, saltier flavor than clams and mussels. Oysters are most popularly served raw on ice in their half shells with fixings like lemon, butter, hot sauce and mignonette sauce, a zingy condiment made with shallots and vinegar. But they’re also tasty grilled, baked, fried or in chowder.
Scientific name: Teuthida
The word “mollusk” may conjure up images of snails for you, but it turns out squid are part of the mollusk family, since they’re cephalopods (aka marine animals that have bilateral body symmetry, a large head and a set of arms or tentacles, plus a molluscan foot). Squid and octopuses are related, but squid have a more notably streamlined structure. Its mild flavor and soft texture make it a welcome addition to everything from seafoods stews to stir-fries. But it’s most commonly consumed as calamari, an Italian dish that calls for breading and frying the squid. Their ink is also used to dye and flavor pasta, sauce, rice and more.
Scientific name: Octopoda
Octopuses are revered as geniuses of the animal kingdom. They’re also a major part of the global seafood industry, since they’re consumed all over Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean, as well as in the U.S. Odds are you’ve seen this cephalopod on the menu at a fancy restaurant near you, whether served solo as an appetizer or in a salad, pasta dish or stew. Octopus tentacles not only look elegant and intriguing on a plate, but they’re also juicy and tender without being overwhelmingly fishy in flavor. Octopus is great fried, boiled, raw (like in ceviche) or grilled.