Freezing is the method most people choose for preserving fresh fish and other seafood
products. However, this preservation technique is effective only if the product is handled
in such a way that its quality is kept near peak freshness. The quality of frozen seafood
is directly related to the quality of the starting material. If the seafood you freeze is
of poor quality, the seafood you thaw will be of poor quality--perhaps even poorer.
It is best to freeze fish and seafood products rapidly. Turn your freezer down to its
lowest (coldest) temperature setting, and don't overload it by trying to freeze too much
at one time. If you usually keep the freezer temperature higher than its lowest setting,
be sure the seafood is completely frozen before turning the temperature back up to its
If seafood is frozen slowly, large ice crystals may develop inside the flesh tissues,
which can cause physical damage to the tissue cell structure. Ruptured tissue cells means
increased drip-loss during thawing. The moisture loss from thaw-dripping and the
associated loss of water-soluble parts of the damaged tissue will, in turn, affect both
the texture and flavor of the cooked product.
Proper thawing is just as important as proper freezing. Cold running water remains the
fastest and best means of thawing seafoods. If the product is not already in one, put it
into a waterproof plastic bag, force out all the air you can, and seal the bag. (It is
necessary to expell the air from the bag because air is a good insulator and will extend
the thawing time.) Place the bag into a pan, kettle, or sink and run cold water into the
container and over the plastic bag. With thin packages, such as individual fillets, the
thawing process should take no longer than 5 to 10 minutes. Thicker packages will take
Seafoods can also be taken directly from the freezer and cooked. However, if you use
this procedure, remember that it will take longer to cook the seafood.
Another acceptable method for rapidly thawing seafood is to use a microwave oven. Slow
thawing (overnight) in a refrigerator) is an acceptable practice, but excessive drip-loss
can occur when this procedure is used. As noted earlier, a large amount of drip-loss can
result in a drier and less succulent product.
Thawing seafood products at room temperature should never be attempted. Thawing at room
temperature is a slow process, and warming the outer product surface can allow bacterial
growth and spoilage to occur while the inner flesh is still thawing. Thawing seafoods in
hot water is also not recommended. Hot water thawing can both denature tissue proteins and
initiate cooking. The end result is a loss of tissue moisture, textural changes, and
Is it safe to refreeze fish that has been previously frozen and then thawed?
If the fish has been thawed and handled properly (in the refrigerator, not at room
temperature), refreezing will not introduce any new food safety risks. (See the above
section for proper thawing technique.) However, the process of thawing and refreezing can
cause toughening, loss of flavor, and other food-quality problems.
Frozen fish of good quality that were handled and frozen properly from catch to the
freezer should remain of high quality for the period listed on page 2. These time periods are approximate and assume a freezer
temperature of 0 degrees.
Go to Page Two.
For a free printed copy of the complete brochure, "Home Freezing of
Fish," by David A. Stuiber, email your
mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org