by Carolyn Bell, RDN
Many people freeze fish in water, and this causes fish to lose some of its flavor when defrosted. Fresh, and the emphasis is on ‘fresh’, (store bought or fresh catch) fish freeze well for up to six months if stored in an airtight method (fatty fish like salmon and trout; only three months). Catching your own fish? Keep the fish as cool as possible (on ice, or in the shade). Don’t let the fish flop around on a hard surface as this causes bruising and defects to the fish. Before gutting and cleaning the fish, keep the fish cool on ice (to prevent the fish from drying out), with a raised bottom for water to drain (remember, kept in water causes flavor loss). If you have an especially long trip, drain the water periodically, and continue to keep the fish cool until you can clean and store them.
Wash fresh fish well, gut and clean (if catching your own), and place the fish in an airtight, vacuum sealed or plastic freezer bag. If you see air pockets in the freezer bag, only then add a little water to these pockets to make the bag airtight. The best methods for freezing fish are in order: 1) vacuum sealed 2) wrapped in plastic wrap (double-wrapped is even better), 3) freezer paper, 4) any method packaged in water (water affects texture and flavor when defrosted.) The best method to defrost fish is to run cool water over the packaging (5-10 minutes) to keep it cool and prevent harmful bacteria from forming (bacteria growth occurs when defrosted at room temperature.) Defrosting in the refrigerator is slower, and the fish may become dry (dry fish are less tasty). Enjoy your catch by keeping them cool, clean as soon as possible, store air-tight, and thaw with cool water for the best taste!