How to Thaw Frozen Fish

by Oleg Nikitenko June 01, 2017

How to Thaw Frozen Fish

How to Defrost Salmon and Other Fish?

If you have ever bought frozen fish, you likely know that this can be a great way to save money on a healthy food. However, many people ask "how long is fish good for in the fridge?" and don't know the real answer. But thawing fish properly after purchase is important, as correct thawing improves flavor, taste, and texture. And if you are asking "how long can fish be refrigerated?" it may even be more important to know the answer to this question, since eating expired fish can cause health problems, including food poisoning. 

If you need to know how to defrost frozen fish, you should keep in mind that you want to preserve flavor and condition, as well as make sure that the fish does not spoil. There are a few different ways to do so: thawing in the refrigerator, thawing in icy water, or microwave thawing. Each way to thaw fish has its own set of necessary precautions you will need to take to ensure your fish is in optimal condition for the best taste.

Refrigerator Thawing

Most frozen fish you buy in the frozen section will be sold in a large plastic bag, with each fillet in a smaller plastic bag. You can leave the fish in the bags to thaw.

If you choose this method, it is important to remember to put the fish in the refrigerator and  not on the counter. This is because temperature is very important when thawing. The refrigerator allows the filets to be kept cool, and since fish spoils easily, this reduces your chances of having to deal with spoiled fish you can't use. Countertop taking is uneven, and since the outer portions of the fish thaw first, they may go bad while the inside portions are still frozen.

Generally, this will take several hours. The best way to thaw fish in the refrigerator is by leaving it in overnight, which is usually enough time for the fish to thaw entirely. Do not leave it in too long, as chances are good that many people asking "how long is fish good for in the fridge" have likely left the fish there too long.

However, if you are in a rush, you may want to choose one of the methods below. Both of these methods allow you to thaw frozen salmon and other fish immediately after purchase, but they will still preserve the texture of the fish itself. 

Microwave Thawing

If you want to know how to defrost fish quickly, you want to use this method. However, there are a few things to know in order to make sure that you do it properly. Some microwave manuals will give you detailed instructions on how to defrost frozen fish, but the basic method is as follows:

  • 1. Find out how the weight of the fish (or estimate).
  • 2. Choose a "defrost" setting and enter the weight.
  • 3. Check on the fish often.
  • 4. Stop defrosting when you can bend the fish, but it still is mildly icy.
Finding how much the fish weighs is a good guide for how long defrosting fish will take, but checking on the fish often is important. It may help to pause defrosting periodically to flip the fish over, which will ensure more even defrosting. If it thaws unevenly, it may be more difficult to cook. Additionally, some microwaves are more powerful than others, and you don't want the fish to dry out or to actually cook during defrosting. If you're wondering how to thaw salmon and other frozen fish fast, this is likely the fastest way, but you can damage the fish if you overcook it.


Icy Water Thawing

If you're wondering how to thaw frozen fish without using a kitchen appliance, water can work well. Generally, it will take about an hour. To do this, do the following:

  • 1. Fill a large pot with cold water.
  • 2. Place the fish (still in the bags) in the pot, and weight it down if needed.
  • 3. Check the fish periodically by pushing the middle of each filet. The middle should be somewhat soft when it is thawed.
When you use water, temperature is very important, as the quality of the fish deteriorates if you use hot water. Using colder water is the best way to thaw fish. If you are in a hurry, checking the filets regularly can speed things along, as thinner filets may thaw more quickly.

With all of these options, it is wise to smell the fish once it's thawed. If it spells spoiled or overly fishy, it may not be usable. With each of these methods at your disposal, knowing how to thaw fish will make you well-equipped to prepare frozen fish the next time it's a part of your meal planning.

Oleg Nikitenko
Oleg Nikitenko


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