How Do You Store Fish?

Reviewed on 3/5/2021

Storing fish

The best way to store fresh fish is on ice.
The best way to store fresh fish is on ice.

The best way to store fresh fish is on ice. Ice may need to be placed on top of the fish as well as underneath. The ice isn’t just cold; it’s also dry and allows the meltwater and liquid to run off the fish. However, there are other ways of retaining the freshness and maximizing the storage time of fresh fish.

  • Most fish can be vacuum packed at the fishmongers. Vacuum pack and freeze if you intend to store the fish for a long time.
  • Fish lose flavor, consistency, and freshness more quickly if they lie in their own juices. The liquid makes the fish flesh deteriorate more quickly. For the best result and to prevent fish from going off for longer, you should store it surrounded by air, in paper, on a rack, or in another way that allows any liquid to run off.
  • The quality of the flesh keeps better if it is defrosted slowly, for example, in the fridge. The liquid from the defrosted fish needs to be able to run off.
  • Fatty fish freeze better and defrost more quickly than lean fish. Water expands when it freezes, which means the cells in the flesh that are filled with liquid will burst from the inside. This has less of an effect on fish that contain a larger proportion of fat.
  • When you buy fish in a plastic box in the supermarket, you need to repack it before freezing. Otherwise, it will be freeze-dried. You need to get the air out; don’t freeze them in trays. 
  • Lean fish from warm waters, for example, tilapia and pangasius, keep the longest. Fatty fish from cold waters, for example, salmon and mackerel, have the shortest shelf life.
  • The art of freezing fish:
    • Freeze in small pieces/fish as they are.
    • Wrap in plastic wrap if they are already frozen.
    • Enclose in a final layer that doesn’t allow light through.
    • Never re-freeze raw, defrosted fish.
  • Storage times at −18°C or colder:
    • Fatty fish approximately 3 months
    • Lean fish approximately 6 months
    • Shellfish in liquid approximately 2 months
  • Ancient fishermen used the practice of salting to preserve fish while at sea and a long way from the market. Salt draws out moisture and dries out the fish, thereby creating an environment where microorganisms can’t function, and the fish are preserved.
  • Drying fish on a wooden rack just like our forefathers did can still be done. Fish should be salted and filleted if possible, or if small, opened so they lay flat. They can be skewered with wooden spikes to aid in this if need be. You should also hang them in a place out of the sun with good air circulation. In addition, make sure to turn them several times a day. They should be brought in at night and sprinkled with salt if they are still damp.
  • Brining is a method used to preserve fish in a salty liquid. It is also a flavoring step (like a marinade) in most of the other types of preservation. There are two methods that you can use to brine fish. Using salt to draw out the fish’s own moisture to create brine is an easy way or preparing a solution of salt and water or vinegar (or even wine) and using it to cover the fish is another way to preserve the fish. 
  • When you smoke fish, you are drying it out, like salting, to make an environment where bacteria can’t multiply. Usually, smoking uses heat to drive off the moisture without cooking the fish. You are also adding a distinctive flavor to the fish that many find quite enticing.
  • Canning fish is another way to store the meat. Fish is a low-acid food and thus has a long processing time. If you attempt canning, you should cut your fish into chunks and smaller pint-sized portions so that you are sure all the meat reaches a safe processing temperature. Canning fish should always be done with a pressure canner.
  • For a real adventure in putting up your fish, you can try pickling them. Most pickling recipes take a two-step approach. First, you either brine or cook your fish, and second, you immerse them in a pickling mixture and allow them to soak. This is one of the finest ways to preserve the fish.

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References
Seafood Handling and Storage: https://www.seafoodhealthfacts.org/seafood-safety/general-information-patients-and-consumers/seafood-handling-and-storage

Freezing: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/fish.html

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