Tun Shell

Tonnidae family

Other names: Cask shells.

Family: Tonnidae (tun shell).


These large, barrel-shaped shells have grooves running around the outside and relatively thin walls. They are found buried into sandy bottoms in tropical waters, and are more common along the east coast of Australia, though they are also found in the west. They have an operculum, the protective flap covering the shell’s opening. The name ‘tun’, an old word for a wine barrel of a specific size, refers to the shell’s barrel-like shape.

Season: Available year round, though supply is limited.

Size and Weight: Average around 10cm diameter.

Price: Low priced.


Bailer, periwinkle, trochus, tulip shell and other gastropods.

To Buy:

Sold whole. Look for brightly coloured, intact, lustrous shells, firm flesh, and a pleasant fresh sea smell.

To Store:

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months below -18ºC.

To Cook:

Average yield is 35%. Has a mildly salty flavour, low oiliness and firm flesh.

Cooking Methods:

Boil or steam shells for about 10 minutes, until the meat can be extracted using a fork, pin or special pick. Serve with a dressing, in salads or pickle. The firm flesh holds together well in soups, curries and casseroles and they are occasionally baked, pan-fried or eaten raw.

Goes well with:

Bacon, butter, chilli, coriander, fennel, garlic, herbs, lemon, lime, mayonnaise, olive oil, onion, parsley, pepper, Pernod, tomato, vinegar, white wine.