Defrosting fish safely may not be difficult, but it does need you to follow certain dos and don’ts. Here are a few different methods on how to defrost fish safely like an expert.
Seafood, especially prawns and fish, are a regular part of our weekly menu. For the longest time, we would go out and buy fresh fish the morning I planned to cook it. But over the last few years, I have switched to frozen fish for a number of different reasons.
One being that most likely fresh fish isn’t exactly fresh, especially if you live in a city like Bangalore which isn’t near the sea. Most vendors selling fresh fish actually just thaw previously frozen fish and sell it as fresh, which makes it unhygienic as well as the fish can lose essential nutrients.
Frozen fish on the other hand, is usually frozen within a few hours of it being caught. This helps the fish retain its structural integrity, prevents the growth of harmful bacteria, and locks in essential nutrients.
So now that we have that out of the way, here are some safe ways to defrost fish:
Also read: How to defrost prawns safely
Method #1: How to defrost fish in the refrigerator
Simply remove the pack of frozen fish from the freezer the night before/or the morning of when you plan to cook it and place it in the refrigerator. This will make sure that your fish thaws out gradually. Tip: Place it on a tray to catch any defrosted water - it’ll save you a mess later!
This method requires about 6 to 10 hours for the fish to thaw, depending on the size, type, and thickness of the cut. So it won’t work for those sudden fish cravings. But it is one of the best ways to maintain the integrity, nutrition, and freshness of the fish.
Method #2: How to safely defrost fish under cold water
Remove the frozen fish from the original packaging and transfer it to a bowl.
Fill the bowl with cold water, and make sure the fish is completely submerged.
Change the water every 30-45 minutes until the fish is completely thawed.
This is the method I personally love using to safely defrost my fish, simply because its faster and doesn’t need any advance planning (I can never remember to start defrosting fish the night before). P.S. However, one thing to keep in mind is the temperature of the water. It has to be cold or cool to touch, not warm and definitely not hot. You can also use tap water as long as the water isn’t warm or hot to touch (can happen during summers)
Things to absolutely avoid when thawing fish
- Warm water: Warm or hot water can not just cook the surface of the fish, but also change its texture and structural integrity, thereby making it unsafe for consumption. It is always best to use cold water when defrosting any seafood.
- Leaving it on the countertop: Even though leaving it on the countertop won’t cook the fish, the temperature difference between freezing and room temperature may cause change in the texture or lead to a growth of bacteria on the surface of the fish.
- Avoid direct contact with water: When thawing, it is best to keep your fish separated by keeping it in a resealable plastic bag or its original packaging. This is because too much contact with water can make the fish get soggy, texture mushy, and the final dish a lot less flavourful. I generally don’t do this and haven’t noticed a difference but most experts recommend this step.
- Do not refreeze thawed fish: Once your fish is thawed, it is best to cook it immediately. Avoid re-freezing your fish at all costs as that can change the structural integrity of the fish, and cause harmful bacteria to develop.
Can I use the defrost function in my microwave to thaw fish?
While the defrost function on your microwave might seem like a brilliant idea to defrost your fish fast, it is actually the worst possible way to defrost frozen fish. Can you do it? Sure. But is it recommended? Absolutely not. The sudden change in temperature from the freezer to microwave could be a bit of a shock for the fish. This can break down the structural integrity of the fish, change its texture, and even cause bacterial growth, making it unsafe for consumption. Additionally, the uneven heating of a microwave could cook the outer layer of the fish as well cause heat spots, neither of which is desirable. Thanks to all these factors, it is best to avoid defrosting your fish in a microwave.
So then what is the best way to defrost fish quickly?
All of us have days when we are in a hurry and need the fish to be defrosted ASAP. And according to experts, here’s how to defrost fish quickly, in about 30 minutes:
- Keep the fish in its original vacuum-filled packaging (or a resealable plastic bag) and place it in a big bowl of cold tap water.
- Make sure the pack of fish is fully submerged in water. If needed, you can place a dish or bowl on top to keep it in place and prevent it from bobbing up and down otherwise it won’t thaw out evenly.
- Change the water frequently, every 10 minutes or so, to prevent it from getting cooler as that will delay the defrosting process.
- After about 30 minutes, take the fish out of the water and see if it bends easily. If it does, your fish is ready to cook. If not, leave it in there for another 10 minutes or so.
Once your fish is properly thawed, it is time to get cooking! Here are some of my favourite fish dishes that you absolutely need to try: