No freezer burn in sight.

By Kelly Vaughan
Updated March 26, 2020

From frozen salmon to large jumbo shrimp, there are just as many delicious frozen seafood options on the market as there are fresh. While buying a large bag of frozen fish filets is usually more cost-efficient than buying fresh (and saves you a few trips to the grocery store), fresh can be cooked at a moment’s notice. So what do you do when you decide to cook seafood from frozen at the last minute? How do you do it quickly and safely without sacrificing quality? We took a deep dive into all things frozen seafood with our experts.

Shopping for Frozen Seafood

If you think that frozen seafood is worse quality or cuts of fish, think again. Often, fish are filleted and frozen immediately after capture. “Freezing, when done properly, is an excellent way to ‘lock-in’ the quality inherent in the catch so that when thawed, you’re getting essentially the same quality you would have had if you ate it on the boat with the fishermen,” says John Burrows, Seafood Technical Program Coordinator of Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Chef and sustainable seafood expert Barton Seaver is a huge advocate for cooking with frozen seafood. “The best way to avoid having seafood go bad is to cook your frozen inventory. It's a great weeknight option," he says.

How to Store Frozen Seafood

Let’s assume that you’re not running a home organizing Instagram account as a side hustle. Most likely, your freezer is jam-packed with frozen fruits and vegetables, ice cream, your favorite Trader Joe’s meals, and vacuum-sealed packages of fish. So what’s the best way to safely store frozen seafood in a crowded freezer? “The bottom of the freezer, away from the door in order to avoid temperature fluctuations when opening and closing your freezer,” says Seaver. Burrows agrees and says to make sure that your freezer is very cold (-10 degrees F or colder) and that the door shuts adequately.

How to Thaw Frozen Fish

Defrosting frozen seafood or lobster tails requires more time and patience than fish filets. Bluzette Carline of Seabest recommends thawing frozen fish in the refrigerator for 10 to 12 hours in advance of cooking it. If you’re pressed for time, thaw seafood in cold water for 3 to 5 minutes. “However, quick thaw methods should be approached with caution, as improper thawing can seriously damage seafood quality, says Burrows. Once the product is thawed, keep it chilled until ready for use.

Follow the same safety precautions when thawing fish fillets. Carline recommends removing frozen fish fillets from the packaging and placing in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours until thawed.

What Are the Signs That Frozen Seafood Has Gone Bad?

Once your fish has thawed, check for any strong “fishy” odors, which are a sign that it’s past its peak. Seaver says to look out for ice crystals, and dry or discolored spots, all of which indicate that the fish was exposed to air and thawed briefly before re-freezing.