Crustaceans (Crustacea ) form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles.
In this article, I’ll focus on the benefits of eating crustaceans and how to prepare them. I’ll also share funny stories and useful tips.
Discovering the World of Crustaceans
Crustaceans are a diverse group of animals found in oceans, seas, and freshwater. They are classified as invertebrates, meaning they lack a backbone. The majority of crustaceans are aquatic creatures, but some species can be found outside of water, such as woodlice. The group includes a wide variety of animals, ranging from small shrimp to large lobsters and crabs.
What Are the Different Types of Crustaceans?
There are thousands of species of crustaceans, but the most common types include crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and krill. Woodlice, also known as pill bugs, are another type of crustacean that can be found outside of water.
Are There Any Risks Associated with Eating Crustaceans?
Some people are allergic to crustaceans and may experience an allergic reaction if they consume them. It is important to consider this before consuming any type of crustacean. Additionally, some species of crustaceans may contain high levels of mercury or other toxins, so it is important to be aware of where the crustaceans are sourced from.
The Delicate and Rich Taste of Crustaceans
Crustaceans are known for their delicate and rich taste, which is unlike any other seafood. The meat is white, fresh, and considered a choice food. The flavor varies depending on the type and size of the crustacean, but most people describe it as a mix between shrimp and lobster with just a hint of saltiness to add some extra zing. Crabmeat is white meat, not quite as soft and salty as chicken or steak, with no strong fish taste. The fact that crustaceans are found in different oceans and clean waters around the world contributes to the variety of their taste.
The Best Ways to Enjoy Crustaceans
Crustaceans are a loved food, and for good reason. They offer a lot of value, and their taste is simply incredible. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy crustaceans:
- Steamed: Steaming is the closest you can get to the natural taste of crustaceans. It allows you to control the level of saltiness and contributes to the delicate taste of the meat.
- Served with sides: Crustaceans are perfect for building a great meal. They are often served with sides like rice, vegetables, and potatoes, which turn the meal into a complete and satisfying dish.
- In dishes: Crustaceans are incredibly versatile and can be used in a lot of different dishes. They are often found in soups, stews, and salads, and can be used to add a rich and unique flavor to any meal.
The Importance of Quality
When it comes to crustaceans, quality is critical. Looking for large, fresh, and clean crustaceans is key to getting the best taste. Experienced seafood lovers know that the main factor that sets good crustaceans apart from the rest is the quality of the meat. Cheaper crustaceans may be available, but they are often of lower quality and may not offer the same level of taste.
The Variety of Crustaceans
There are a lot of different types of crustaceans, each with its own unique taste. Here are some of the most common types of crustaceans:
- Lobster: Lobster is known for its rich and buttery taste. It is often considered a luxury food and can be quite expensive.
- Shrimp: Shrimp is a new and known food that is loved by many. It is often found in dishes like scampi and can be served in a variety of ways.
- Crab: Crab is a type of crustacean that offers a lot of variety. There are many different types of crab, each with its own unique taste. Some of the most common types of crab include blue crab, king crab, and snow crab.
Get cracking: How to cook crustaceans like a pro
- Before cooking, make sure to kill the crustaceans humanely. This can be done by placing them in the freezer for a couple of hours or by quickly piercing the brain with a sharp knife.
- If you’re getting live crustaceans from the market or a seafood site, make sure to keep them alive until cooking by storing them in a large stock pot with a bit of ocean water or stocking them in a heavy-duty cooler with ice.
- When preparing crustaceans, make sure to remove the guts and clean the shell thoroughly.
- Steaming is the most popular cooking method for crustaceans, as it preserves the sweet and delicate flavor of the meat. Use a steamer or a pot with a steaming basket and follow these guidelines:
– Lobsters take the longest to cook, at about 18 to 20 minutes.
– Live crabs require about 10 to 12 minutes cook time.
– Shrimp require about four to six minutes.
- Cooked crustaceans should have bright red shells and flesh should be opaque in color.
Grilling and other cooking methods
- Grilling crustaceans is a fantastic way to add a smoky flavor to the meat. Simply brush the shellfish with oil and grill over high heat until the shell turns red and the meat is cooked through.
- Other popular dishes include lobster thermidor and lobster mornay, which require a bit more effort and skill in the kitchen.
- When cooking with crustaceans, it’s important to note that they are similar to mollusks in that they can be allergenic to some people. Make sure to read up on scientific research and information about allergic reactions before preparing and serving crustaceans.
Tools and tips for cooking crustaceans
- To cook crustaceans like a chef, you’ll need a few essential tools, including a heavy-duty stock pot, a sharp knife, and a steamer or steaming basket.
- When buying crustaceans, make sure to look for bright red shells and avoid any that have a strong odor or feel too hard or heavy.
- If you’re new to cooking crustaceans, it’s a good idea to follow a recipe or guide until you get the hang of it.
- Australian rock lobster and Geraldton lobster are both great options for cooking, but they can be pretty expensive. Shrimp and crab are more widely available and popular for everyday meals.
- When it comes to keeping cooked crustaceans, make sure to store them in the shell and refrigerate them promptly. They can last up to a couple of days in the fridge.
Feeding Habits of Crustaceans: What’s on the Menu?
Crustaceans are known to have broad diets that include a variety of food sources. They are scavengers of the sea and will eat anything they can catch, including fish, clams, mussels, and sea urchins. They’ll also eat other crustaceans, making them cannibalistic in nature.
Pets with a Unique Diet
Hermit crabs are popular pets, and their diet is unique. They are omnivores and will eat almost anything, including fruits, vegetables, and meat. They also eat algae and phytoplankton, which are essential for their survival.
Crawling and Swimming Predators
Some crustaceans are predators, such as fiddler crabs and mantis shrimps. They consume smaller prey, including fish, worms, and other crustaceans. Larger crustaceans, such as lobsters and crabs, are also predatory and will hunt for their food.
Some crustaceans, such as barnacles, are stationary and filter feeders. They use their hairy legs to filter out organic matter from the water, including phytoplankton and zooplankton.
Soft Exoskeleton and Molting
Crustaceans have a soft exoskeleton when they are young and will molt as they grow. During molting, they shed their old exoskeleton and grow a new one. This process leaves them vulnerable to predators.
Countless Options on the Reef
Crustaceans on the reef have countless options for their diet. They can eat algae, plankton, and other small organisms. Some crustaceans, such as nauplius larvae, are also predatory and will hunt for their food.
When Eating Crustaceans and Molluscs Can Be Dangerous: Allergic Reactions
While crustaceans and molluscs are delicious and nutritious foods, they can also cause severe allergic reactions in some people. Allergic reactions to these types of seafood are common, and they tend to develop later in life than other childhood allergies. Allergies to crustaceans and molluscs are usually lifelong.
Precautionary Measures to Avoid Allergic Reactions
If you have a known allergy to crustaceans or molluscs, it’s important to take precautions when eating any food that may contain these ingredients. Here are some tips to help you avoid an allergic reaction:
- Read the label: Always check the label of any food product you buy to see if it contains crustaceans or molluscs.
- Ask questions: If you’re eating out, ask your server about the ingredients in the dishes you’re interested in.
- Be aware of cross-contamination: Even if a dish doesn’t contain crustaceans or molluscs as an ingredient, it may still be cooked in the same oil or on the same surface as these foods.
- Look for a precautionary statement: Some food products may contain a precautionary statement on the label, such as “may contain shellfish.” Take this seriously and avoid these foods.
- Consult an allergist: If you have a severe allergy to crustaceans or molluscs, your allergist may recommend carrying an epinephrine injection with you at all times in case of an emergency.
Cooking and Changing the Form of Crustaceans and Molluscs
Cooking or changing the form of crustaceans and molluscs does not eliminate the proteins that cause allergic reactions. Even if the food has been cooked, it can still cause an allergic reaction in some people. Additionally, some people may react to the steam that comes off while cooking these foods. Therefore, it’s important to take precautions when handling and cooking these foods to avoid cross-contamination.
So, that’s all you need to know about crustaceans as food. They’re a delicacy in many cultures and can be a great addition to your diet, as long as you’re careful about the type you eat and how you prepare them. Plus, they’re a great way to get some protein and omega-3s in your diet! So, go ahead and give them a try!