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Frequently Asked Questions about Seafood
Every day, the Allrecipes staff answer lots of email from cooks like you in the Allrecipes community. For a glimpse of this dynamic exchange of ideas and tips, and for answers to questions about food that you may have had yourself, please have a look at this FAQ! You can also browse all the articles about Seafood in our Cooking Basics section!

If you still have questions, take a look at the FAQ for another cookbook, or read our Allrecipes FAQ for tips on using this website.

Q. I would like to make a batch of Gumbo, but there is one ingredient I have never heard of -- filé powder. What is it, and where can I get it?

A. Filé powder is a seasoning made from the ground, dried leaves of the sassafras tree. It is an integral part of Creole cooking and is used to thicken and flavor gumbos, and other Creole dishes. It must be stirred into a dish after it's been removed from the heat because extended cooking makes filé stringy and slimy. Filé powder is available in the spice or gourmet section of most large supermarkets.

Q. What is "Old Bay Seasoning?" What are the basic ingredients?

A. Old Bay Seasoning is the brand name for a seasoning It is made from a mixture of celery salt, mustard, red pepper, black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon and paprika. For more about seasonings, including particular spices and herbs, please see our collection of Springtime articles that includes a handy spice chart, tips on cooking with fresh herbs and more!

Q. What is mahi mahi?

A. Also called dolphinfish and dorado, mahi mahi is found in warm waters throughout the world. It's a moderately fat fish with firm, flavorful flesh. It ranges in weight from 3 to 45 pounds and can be purchased in steaks or fillets. Mahi mahi is best prepared simply, as in grilling or broiling.

For more cooking term definitions, see the Allrecipes Encyclopedia.

Q. How do I clean mussels?

A. Before cooking, soak your mussels in fresh water. Soak them for about 20 minutes. As the mussels breathe, they filter water and expel sand. After about 20 minutes, the mussels will have less salt and sand stored inside of their shells. Most mussels have what is commonly called a beard, which you'll want to remove: Use a dry towel to grasp the beard and give a sharp yank out and toward the hinge-end of the mussel. Transfer the mussels to a bowl of fresh water, discarding the soaking water. Using a firm brush, clean off any additional sand, barnacles, or other oceanic attachments. Rinse the mussels under cool tap water, and set aside. Drain on a towel before cooking.

We have a photo-filled, step-by-step tutorial, Cleaning Mussels, demonstrating this method. Take a peek at our seafood articles for even more recipes, meal ideas and cooking advice.

Q. What is the difference between bay scallops and sea scallops?

A. There are many scallop species, but in general they're classified into two broad groups -- bay scallops and sea scallops. Bay scallops, generally found only on the East Coast, are very tiny (the muscle is about 1/2 inch in diameter). They average about 100 per pound and their meat is sweeter and more succulent than that of the sea scallop. The muscle of the larger, more widely available sea scallop averages 1 1/2 inches in diameter (about 30 to the pound) and is not as tender as the smaller varieties. Though slightly chewier, the meat is still sweet and moist.

Q. Can I use swordfish for batter frying -- as in 'fish and chips'?

A. Usually, inexpensive white fish is used to make fish and chips. However, you can use almost any firm fleshed fish for batter-fried fish, including swordfish. Cod, haddock, halibut, dogfish, catfish, red snapper and flounder are also good choices. For helpful instructions for deep frying, see our photo-filled tutorial, Deep Frying.

Q. I often find myself adjusting recipes in order to make enough for my family, but it doesn't quite work for some recipes. Do you have any advice for me?

A. Changing recipes in order to make more or less servings is called "recipe scaling." Whenever you alter the amounts of ingredients for a given recipe, you may also need to adjust the cooking temperature, cooking time, pan size and seasonings. But for food chemistry reasons, recipe scaling simply does not work well for some dishes: delicate foods such as soufflés, baked items requiring yeast such as breads, and recipes for a single large item that is meant to be later divided into smaller portions such as cakes, pies, breads and whole turkey.

Our Recipe Scaling Page will give you a reliable framework for successful recipe scaling: It offers detailed guidelines for recipe scaling and easy instructions for using the handy recipe scaling tool on our site. You can always find this tool and a link to our recipe scaling tips from any recipe at



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