We have spent considerable money on choosing and buying the perfect fish, and there might be an opportunity to buy a large quantity that you want to keep for a few days for a party. Taking the time to care for the fish can extend the life considerably, and it is actually pretty simple.
There is essentially two types of ways to keep fish for extended periods. Number one is to keep it cool and refrigerated, the other would be to freeze it. So let’s tackle these two methods and choose the one that’s right for your situation!
This is the most common method for keeping fish, but you can’t just throw the bag it came in, into the fridge, and expect it to be ok. Maybe if you were using it that night, sure, but if you need to keep it longer, there are some things you can do to keep it fresher longer.
When you have a crustacean (shrimp) or mollusk (clams, mussels), you can ice directly on to the fish, but do provide a layer of plastic, and be sure to use the drain pan underneath. Drain the water that melts frequently as it can get a little funky!
When keeping fresh filets, keep them intact until you are ready to use them. The longer the fish stays intact, the slower the product will break down. Wrap in plastic tightly to make it as water tight as possible. We don’t want to water log the fish, just keep it cool. Place one pan on the bottom, and then place another pan with holes above it. You can make this out of old plastic containers or even have some foil pans just for this purpose. Place bags of ice on top of the fish, spreading it out as much as possible. With very delicate fish like flounder or something similar, I would even put a tea towel in between the ice bags and the fish. Change the ice when it thaws.
It all depends on the quality of the fish at purchase, as to just how long it can hold up. Remember that it should smell fresh, and only of sea water. The flesh should stay resilient to the touch, and should not flake apart. Any scales should also be tough to remove.
Freezing is one method that can be utilized, but there is a caveat. You can not re-freeze food. This is a non-negotiable. DO NOT REFREEZE FOOD. This is a food safety issue as well as being detrimental to the fish itself. Why is it so bad for the food?
Well , there is a little bit of science involved, and I can blast though it quickly, so listen up. When you freeze a product, the water in the product turns into crystals. When we thaw the product, these crystals melt. But instead of going back into the product they came from, the fish say, they actually just run out, and we take moisture right out of the fish. Now repeat that process and double the amount of water that is removed. So just don’t do it.
That said, it is important to know if the fish you purchased was previously frozen, since more and more is coming to us that way. The grocery stores just thaw it and sell it to us. Some fish that is typically frozen is Shrimp, Scallops, Tilapia, even some swordfish and salmon is, so be sure to ask. When in doubt, just don’t do it.
How you do it, is to ensure that there is no air in the package you will make. A vacuum sealer is great for this, but you can do pretty well with plastic wrap. Just be sure to double wrap it, squeezing all the air out.
Whatever method you choose, be sure to date it. Whether you date it when you put it in, or when it will “expire” that is your call. I use the expiration dates so I don’t have to do math when I look in my freezer! Food frozen like this will tend to last 90 days. Make sure to do this as soon as you purchase the product to maximize its life.
Happy Fish Keeping!