How To Defrost Fish Properly

Words: Katrina Rose Wind

I think one thing we have all collectively learnt from our lockdown experience is buying in bulk and freezing to use for later. My freezer consisted of ice, grapes and vodka before Covid-19 hit. Now it’s filled to the brim with fish, homemade bread, herbs, poultry, you name it.

With this newfound freezer obsession, comes new uncharted defrosting territory. When it comes to freezing fish, you don’t have to worry about it losing its flavour or freshness. The reality is even the “fresh” fish that is presented in the shops have been most likely previously flash-frozen and defrosted before. The trick is knowing how to defrost fish correctly.

How To Store Frozen Fish

Fish-Buying-Guide-1x5Although you might think that it doesn’t matter where in the freezer you store your fish, the right spot can actually make a world of difference. The best place to keep fish and seafood is away from the door to avoid temperature fluctuations when opening and closing. The ideal sweet spot would be at the bottom of the freezer, where it’s normally the coldest.

Before freezing your fish, make sure that it has been cleaned properly. Once this has been done, wrap the fish individually in plastic wrap as tightly as possible making sure there are no air bubbles. Once wrapped, wrap again.

How Not to Defrost Your Fish

We need to clear up a couple of common misconceptions, the first one being microwaving frozen fish. It is never ok to defrost your fish in the microwave! You can never tell with 100% accuracy what temperature your microwave setting is. Not only that, the considerable temperature change will mess with the flavour and texture of your fish but can also be a health and safety issue. On top of that, you run the risk of some parts of the fish still being frozen while some parts are partially cooked.

Time for another myth to be debunked; defrosting fish in room temperature. Don’t do it, guys! It’s also a health and safety issue, the chances of bacteria growing on the surface are very high when left out in room temperature. Frozen and even cooked fish should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours. Yes, this also includes running hot water over your frozen fish to thaw.

Defrosting Fish: Multiple Techniques

The moment you’ve all been waiting for, how to properly thaw your fish! *drumroll please* The best and least risky way to thaw is in the fridge. If you know you’re going to have fish later that day simply put it on a plate (this way you don’t get all that nasty fishy water all over your fridge) and pop it in the fridge. It takes about 10 to 12 hours for fish to thaw properly. Keep that in mind when putting in the fridge, if you’re stressed about the time frame, put it in the fridge the night before and that should give you enough time for the fish to thaw properly.

Another method for defrosting fish is running it under cold water. We don’t recommend this method unless you’re really pressed for time but it does the trick. First, make sure to remove the fish from its packaging and place it in a plastic bag (Ziploc bags work best) then make sure there is no air in the bag before closing. Once this has been done, simply put it in a big enough bowl that will fit the fish and enough water to cover it.

Run cold water over the fish, make sure it’s around 4°C if it’s colder it will take too long to thaw and if it’s any hotter, you run the risk of bacteria growth. Change the water every 15-20 minutes, it usually takes less than an hour for the fish to be completely thawed. Tip: if the fish keeps floating to the top use a small pot or jar of tahini, peanut butter, whatever you have on hand to press it down.

How To Know If The Fish Has Expired

This should be a given but if your defrosted fish has any strong “fishy” odour, it’s not safe to eat. Another dead giveaway is if the fish has any greyish or whitish discolouration, flakes, or patches which means it, unfortunately, has freezer burn. If it’s on the edges you can easily cut it off and use the rest of the fish.

If your fish wasn’t frozen properly there is the risk that bacteria could have formed. If you see a slimy film over the surface that means bacteria has started to grow and is no longer safe to eat. Another tell-tale sign that a fish hasn’t been frozen correctly is if you see little crystals have formed, that usually means there was too much air in the packaging before freezing and is also no longer safe to eat.

Make sure to check out our roundup of delicious fish recipes for some delicious lunch and dinner inspiration.

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