Freezing is a practical way to preserve fish, as it helps to slow spoilage by keeping growth of bacteria at bay in the colder temperatures. Fish also contains moisture that helps to slow the breakdown of the meat. Certain foods, including certain types of fish and seafood, can be frozen for longer periods of time than others. Learn how long you can freeze fish for maximum safety.
Freezer storage life
Oily fish such as herring, salmon and mackerel can be frozen for no longer than four months. White fish such as cod, haddock and tilapia can last eight months in a freezer. Flat fish and sole will last for 10 months in deep-freeze, while clams and oysters should remain frozen for about four months.
Always follow the cooking and thawing directions on your fish or seafood packages. You must always thaw fish completely so it cooks thoroughly. Thawing also kills all harmful bacteria in the meat. Fish can sometimes be cooked while frozen, but this isn't typically done and it isn't recommended. It's best to thaw fish in your refrigerator instead of on the counter, as thawing at room temperature for too long can cause the fish to spoil.
Do not refreeze any meat after thawing. Thawed fish should be cooked within 24 hours to prevent any spoilage.
Safe shopping and storage tips
Always buy frozen foods toward the end of your shopping trip to ensure they stay frozen. After you get home from shopping, immediately place your frozen foods into the freezer. Be sure to also keep your refrigerator and freezer at the proper temperatures to prevent spoilage.
If you rewrap fish, always wash your hands first to prevent spreading of bacteria, then wrap the fish in aluminum foil, a zip-top bag or butcher paper to prevent freezer burn.
Try to freeze fresh fish as soon as you catch it, ideally within 12 hours. If you freeze fresh fish immediately, it will last longer.
Before freezing, however, be sure to clean and prepare the fresh fish for freezing. This makes it easier to work with later after you thaw it; it also helps cut down the time it takes to thaw, further preventing spoilage. Any kind of fresh fish can be frozen. Smaller fish such as sardines can be frozen whole after you clean them, but larger fish should have the head and tail removed first.
When thawing, remember that fresh fish can spoil quickly, so always thaw it in the refrigerator rather than on your counter. This helps to keep it cold throughout the thawing process and prevents bacteria from growing.
Freezing fish is easy, but it does take some consideration. Always freeze your fish for the appropriate amount of time. Freezing it for too long can cause the fish to lose flavor and nutritional value. Pay attention to the package's directions to prevent spoilage-and always remember to thaw it in the refrigerator for safety rather than at room temperature on your counter. Check out more rules for food safety when putting food in the refridgerator or freezer.