How to Keep Abalone Alive: The Complete Guide for Abalone Lovers

Abalone is a delicious mollusk that many seafood aficionados crave. Their tender, slightly chewy texture and subtle, sweet flavor make them a real treat. However, keeping abalone alive and fresh takes a bit of know-how.

As abalone lovers we want to enjoy these creatures at their peak deliciousness. That’s why mastering abalone care is so important. In this comprehensive guide we’ll share insider tips on selecting, storing, and preparing abalone so you can serve up these mollusks at their finest. Let’s dive in!

A Quick Crash Course on Abalone

Before we get into the nitty gritty of abalone care let’s cover some abalone basics.

Abalone are a type of sea snail found clinging to rocky surfaces near the shoreline. Their oval-shaped shell protects their muscular foot and body. There are around 100 species of abalone worldwide. Popular edible varieties include red abalone, green abalone, pink abalone, black abalone, white abalone, and pinto abalone.

Wild abalone feed on seaweed and kelp. They prefer cool, salty waters ranging from 50-68°F. Abalone are broadcast spawners, meaning males and females release eggs and sperm into the water to fertilize.

Abalone reach maturity around 4 years old. At this point, they are about 3-4 inches long. Commercial harvest targets abalone larger than 7 inches long. The largest abalone on record measured a whopping 12 inches!

Now that we’ve covered some basic biology, let’s look at selecting and purchasing abalone.

Choosing Fresh, Quality Abalone

When buying abalone, you’ll typically find two options – live or fresh shucked. Here’s what to look for with each:

Live Abalone

  • Shell should be free of cracks, chips, or holes
  • Firm muscle attachment to the shell
  • Clear, dry eyes
  • Odor-free
  • Active movement like clinging to surfaces

Fresh Shucked Abalone

  • Moist, glossy meat
  • Mild, briny scent
  • No darkening or drying around edges

Live abalone are the freshest option since they are still alive. However, fresh shucked abalone is also delicious if cared for properly after harvesting.

No matter what form you buy, abalone should smell fresh from the sea – never fishy, sour, or ammonia-like. Pass on any abalone with an off-putting odor.

When estimating portions, figure about 1/3 to 1/2 pound of meat per person. Abalone is pricey, so we don’t want to come up short!

Now let’s get into abalone care and storage.

Storing Abalone Correctly

To keep abalone in peak condition, storage technique is key. Here are some tips:

For Live Abalone

  • Place in a container filled with clean, aeriated seawater
  • Use a battery powered air pump to oxygenate the water
  • Keep water temperature around 50-55°F
  • Change the water daily

For Fresh Shucked Abalone

  • Place meat in a bowl and cover with damp paper towels
  • Set the bowl inside another filled with ice to keep cool
  • Store in the coldest part of the fridge, 34-40°F

With proper storage, live abalone can survive 2-3 days out of water. Fresh shucked abalone will last 1-2 days.

It’s best to plan to cook abalone soon after purchasing for optimal texture and flavor. If you can’t use them right away, freeze for longer storage.

Freezing Abalone for Later Use

Freezing is a great way to enjoy abalone for months after purchasing. Here are some freezing tips:

  • Clean live abalone then remove the meat from the shell
  • Rinse the meat and pat dry
  • Slice the muscles into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick pieces
  • Place pieces in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet
  • Freeze for 2-3 hours until firm
  • Transfer frozen pieces to an airtight freezer bag
  • Remove as much air as possible and seal the bag
  • Return to the freezer where it will keep for 2-3 months

Frozen abalone may lose some subtle sweetness but still tastes great. Thaw overnight in the fridge before cooking.

Preparing Abalone to Cook

Abalone needs proper preparation to become tender and palatable. Here’s how to prep them for cooking:

For Live Abalone

  • Tap the shell to detach the muscle
  • Insert a knife to cut the muscle and viscera away
  • Soak for 1 hour in salted water to relax

For Shucked Abalone

  • Rinse under cool water and pat dry
  • Use a knife to trim away any viscera or dark bits
  • Soak for 1 hour in salted water

After soaking, abalone will have a shriveled appearance. This is normal. They plump back up during cooking.

Now pound the abalone with a meat mallet or heavy pan. This further tenderizes the meat. Go easy to avoid shredding.

Finally, slice the abalone into strips, steaks, or chunks as desired. Coat with cornstarch for pan frying or leave plain for dishes like soups or stews.

Now comes the best part – cooking!

Cooking Abalone to Perfection

When cooked correctly, abalone transforms into an incredible treat. Below are some favorite cooking methods:

Pan Frying

  • Coat abalone in cornstarch, salt, and pepper
  • Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a skillet over medium-high heat
  • Cook abalone slices for 1-2 minutes per side until golden
  • Add butter, garlic, thyme and lemon juice to pan and baste abalone


  • Brush abalone with oil and season with salt and pepper
  • Grill over high heat for 1 minute on each side
  • Move to lower heat and cook 2-3 more minutes, flipping occasionally


  • Place abalone pieces in a steamer basket
  • Steam for 4-5 minutes until opaque
  • Finish by pan frying lightly to add flavor


  • Add abalone chunks to soups, stews, and braises
  • Cook for 45-60 minutes until very tender
  • Cool in liquid to prevent toughness

No matter how you choose to cook them, abalone needs high heat for a short time or low gentle cooking to become tender.

Now that you’re a pro at selecting, storing, and cooking abalone, it’s time to start enjoying these special mollusks. Just follow these tips for serving up tender, delicious abalone every time.

Here’s a quick recap of how to keep abalone alive:

  • For live abalone, store in clean, oxygenated seawater at 50-55°F, changing water daily
  • For fresh shucked, place in a bowl with damp towels on ice in the fridge
  • Freeze for long-term storage by cleaning, slicing, freezing individually, then storing airtight
  • Prep by detaching muscle if live or trimming viscera if shucked, then pounding
  • Cook quickly over high heat or gently simmer – abalone needs special care to tenderness

How to cook fresh Abalone – Chinese Style


How do you keep abalone alive at home?

Storing Abalone It can be kept alive overnight in the refrigerator: Place it in a bowl covered with wet towels. Any abalone you won’t eat by the next day should be shucked and cleaned, then frozen.

How long can you keep fresh abalone?

To know if abalone is bad, you can pay attention to how long you’ve stored the abalone. This shellfish should only be kept in the fridge while fresh for 24 to 48 hours. Frozen abalone can last longer, around 3 months, although some seafood sellers do say you can keep it for longer.

How long do abalone live?

Lifespan & Reproduction. White abalone live about 35 to 40 years. Adults become sexually mature in the wild when they are four to six years old. Abalone reproduce by broadcast spawning—releasing their eggs and sperm into the water.

Do you have to clean abalone straight away?

Maximize their freshness When they arrive, shuck your abalone (remove from shell) as soon as you can. If you can’t shuck them right away: Place the box in a refrigerator within a few hours of arrival. It’s important that the abalone are kept cool.

Can you keep abalone alive overnight?

If you need to store it for later use, it can be kept alive overnight in the refrigerator by placing it in a bowl covered with wet towels. However, it is recommended to prepare it no later than the following day. If you have leftover fresh abalone, it can be removed from the shell, sliced, and frozen.

How do you remove a dead abalone?

The guts must be removed as soon as the abalone is dead. Remove abalone flesh from the shell by sliding a short-bladed knife around the edge, between the flesh and the shell, cutting the flesh from the shell. Pull the flesh out of the shell. Slice the guts from the flesh and discard. Optional:

How do you store canned abalone?

To store canned abalone, drain and rinse it prior to use. It’s best to use an airtight container when storing it in the refrigerator or freezer. If you’re storing canned abalone in the refrigerator, ensure that it’s covered and kept away from foods with strong odors.

Can you freeze canned abalone?

If you’re storing canned abalone in the refrigerator, ensure that it’s covered and kept away from foods with strong odors. Canned abalone can be stored in the freezer for up to two years if stored correctly. It’s important to label the container or bag with the correct date before transferring it to the freezer.

Leave a Comment