What Is the Best Way to Thaw Frozen Fish?


In an era when many of us are balancing the needs of our home life with the demands of a professional career, purchasing food ahead of time is often a wise choice. Not only does it allow us to take advantage of sales and excellent savings, but also buying in bulk can actually prevent waste, if we do it wisely. This means correct portioning, using our freezers and refrigerators in the most efficient way possible, and thawing foods safely to enjoy them as we require. Fish is, of course, a very popular protein source. There are so many delicious types and ways in which to prepare them – and if you’re looking to thaw your collection of Butcherman Salmon or other delicious fish on the menu, there are some things to remember.

However, fish can breed distressing bacteria more easily than other types of meat if improperly thawed. What are the best ways to defrost frozen fish so we can enjoy them for dinner or lunch without worrying about freshness? Below, we’ll detail the two top ways to accomplish this, so you can make the most of your frozen fish.

Take It to the Fridge

Chefs and other food experts unilaterally agree that the refrigerator is the best place to thaw your frozen fish. It provides a chilly environment that safely thaws fish in a gradual way. The key to this is that it also remains cold enough to prevent the growth of some rather nasty bacteria in the process, which is something we all want. One of the most important considerations to using this method effectively is starting with a good specimen.

If you are purchasing your fish, it should be completely sealed in plastic, which should be in excellent condition—neither crushed nor torn. As well, it should be completely frozen, but not have ice crystals on the inside of the package. If you notice ice inside the plastic, it’s a sign that the fish is old and may not be good to eat. Why is it so crucial to scrutinise your fish purchase in this way? Partially thawed fish is a breeding ground for bacteria that will not die when refrozen. Much like all other animal muscle, once it’s even partly thawed, it should be cooked and eaten. Never refreeze meat of any variety.

Since thawing fish in the fridge is necessarily slow, plan ahead. Allow the fish to thaw overnight while you’re asleep and the next day while you’re working. Then, it’ll be ready to go when you arrive home and want to prepare a meal. This method of thawing is not only safer, it’s also a great way to preserve the delicious taste and texture of fish. Even flash freezing causes ice crystals to form within the cells of the fish muscle. Quick thawing can lead to dry or tough fish, unless you use a method designed to retain or add fat and moisture. Once your fish is completely thawed, give it a sniff to ensure freshness. Yes, it will smell slightly fishy, but a very pungent scent is a sign of spoiling.

Cold Water Baths

This is a slightly quicker way to thaw fish, but you’ll want to be prepared to follow instructions exactly. There’s very little wiggle room for improvisation where fish food safety is concerned. Thawing it in cold water is a second-best approach, since it does heighten the risk for bacterial proliferation. However, it can be done safely if precautions are taken. Water should never directly come in contact with the fish itself. Therefore, before you start, seal the fish in a closed plastic Ziploc bag, ensuring that all air has been pressed out.

Alternatively, you can use a food-grade plastic kitchen bag and knot it tightly. Then, place it in a large bowl or even a bucket, depending on the amount of fish you plan to thaw. Cover it with cold water and weight it down if the bag floats. This will gradually thaw the fish. If you are in a bit more of a hurry, a steady stream of cold running water will thaw the fish more quickly, while still maintaining a chill enough temperature to prevent bacterial growth.

An Honourable Mention

This last approach isn’t technically a thawing method. However, for those of us incredibly pressed for time, it can offer a solution to the thawing dilemma. Namely, we mean, not thawing the fish at all before you cook it. With dishes that call for steaming, baking, foil-packet grilling, this is a perfectly acceptable method. Simply rinse the frozen fish under cool water and pat dry. Then, cook it immediately. For fish added to soups or stews, and in any case where the fish can slowly cook through, this can actually provide tender, delicious fish without the fuss of defrosting.

While many of us are pressed for time, food safety must remain a central concern. No one has time for food poisoning. However, since we all want to maximize time, our food budget, and have tasty meals in the offing, taking proper steps to ensure quality when defrosting frozen fish is a must. With these methods, the fuss can be avoided and your dinners delicious.

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