Generally, bivalves like clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops should all be purchased fresh. In order to ensure that the bivalves you're buying are still alive, look for those that feel heavy for their size, are mildly briny-smelling (like their other seafood brethren), and have tightly closed, intact shells. Intimidated by shucking oysters? This video explains the surprisingly simple process.
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