How to Flash Freeze Fish: Read This First

Last Updated: November 3, 2021

Finding food that’s healthy without compromising taste can be hard. You’re doing your shopping and you come across a pack of frozen tuna that says “harvested in Alaska and prepared in China.” Does your mind start wondering how that is possible without the fish going bad?

A lot of the food in the market today has been processed one way or the other. Fish is no exception. You might think that’s bad, since “fresh is always better.” However, flash freezing fish allows us to get the food we love, anywhere in the world, any time of the year!

Flash freezing is a lifesaver for many households, but it can get a little bit messy. Thankfully, learning to control the mess isn’t hard. Are you excited to know how to flash freeze fish at home, yet? Let’s dig in.

How to Flash Freeze Fish at Home

In 1924, Clarence Birdseye, an American inventor, came up with an ingenious solution to food preservation.

Birdseye figured out an efficient method of quickly dropping the temperature of fresh food to extend its shelf life. Today, we call his method flash freezing, snap freezing, or blast chilling.

Thankfully, learning how to flash freeze fish at home is a ton easier than it was back in 1924! But first, let’s take a look at what flash-freezing really means.

What Does It Mean to Flash Freeze Fish?

Flash freezing is an accelerated process of storing fresh food within 24 hours of its harvest. For fish, flash freezing needs to be done almost immediately.

Author Note: This process is done with either dry ice at -70℉ or liquid nitrogen at -320℉. Most commonly, dry ice is the way to go. It’s easier to handle and buy.

Why Flash Freeze Fish? Flash-Frozen vs. Fresh

vacuum packed fish

Many people hear “frozen foods” and they flinch. The word is associated with being low quality, inferior taste, and even unsafe. However, by the 21st century, we should be able to trust our food storage technology a little bit better, don’t you think?

A 2015 study found that the quality of fish isn’t reduced by flash freezing. In fact, many people were unable to differentiate between fresh and flash frozen fish, going by taste only.

Here are the top reasons that encourage people to flash freeze fish:

Maintains Quality

Flash freezing can help preserve the original fish quality in terms of color, texture, and firmness. Meanwhile, regular refrigerating can make the fish a bit soggy.

Flash freezing also decreases the chance of getting freeze burns on the fish. That’s mainly because flash-freezing doesn’t go through the same thawing cycles that fridges do.

Safe

At extreme temperatures, bacterial growth is stunned. So, if you do it right, flash freezing can help reduce the rate of fish degradation.

Sustainable

Not only is flash-freezing a great way to preserve fish quality, but it’s also sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Author Note: According to the SeaChoice organization, flash freezing for seafood is better for the environment. Shipping fresh fish is more draining to the resources and has a higher carbon footprint.

Convenient

Flash freeze allows you to enjoy foods that aren’t available in your region or climate zone. They’re also easier to store, with reduced scent.

If you’re into fishing, flash-freezing your catch might be a great option. You’ll save your fish for later and eat it in portions for months.

Flash Freeze Prep. Session: What You’re Going to Need

prepping fish to freeze

The things you’ll need to flash freeze are simple and available in most department stores. So, get your checklist out, and let’s do some shopping.

Fish Requirements

Most fish types can be flash-frozen, as long as they’re frozen immediately after fishing. The freezing technique is also going to be similar, but you might want to see the most suitable way to cut your fish into portions.

Getting Your Tools Ready

Here’s what you’ll need to flash freeze your own fish at home:

  • Plastic vacuum seal: Don’t have any? Don’t worry you can use the water submersion method to seal up regular bags.
  • Aluminum wrap: This is optional.
  • Dry ice packs: Find dry ice retailers near you.
  • Insulated coolers: if you’re going to be transporting your fish around. Keep in mind that thin insulation layers won’t do. You’ll need at least 3 to 4 inches of good-quality insulation. Make sure it’s clean and dry too.
  • Hand gloves: A pair for cleaning the fish and another equipped for handling dry ice.
  • Kitchen tools: knives, tongs, and others that you’ll need to clean and cut the fish. Make sure they’re washed well.

How to Flash Freeze Fish at Home

Now that you’re all set. Let’s see how to flash freeze fish in 6 easy steps:

  1. The first thing you want to do is gutting and cleaning your fish. Do it how you regularly get it done before cooking. Scale the fish thoroughly. Skinning is also recommended for fillet pieces.
  2. Then, you’ll need to cut the fish into portions. We recommend cutting smaller and thinner fillet pieces to make storing easier.
  3. Seal the fish in the vacuum plastics properly. To get the least amount of air and moisture exposure, you might want to add an additional layer of aluminum wrap around the plastic bag. Keeping the aluminum from touching the fish itself is important.
  4. Layer your sealed portions in an insulated container made for flash freezing. Try to avoid overlapping the fish portions, to get maximum surface area exposure to dry ice.
  5. Add enough ice to cover the sealed packages. Depending on the fish-to-ice ratio and efficiency of the cooler, it could take from 5 to 12 hours to finish freezing.
  6. Move the portions into their permanent storage at -10℉ or cooler. Keep in mind that the better your freezer is, the higher quality of fish you’ll maintain for longer. Generally, you want to avoid any freezers with temperature fluctuations.

For visual learners, a quick video can help guide you through the process.

How Long Is Flash Freeze Fish Good For?

Flash-frozen fish (kept at -10℉ or colder) can last for months, depending on the fish type and the storage level.

For instance, a large tuna can take 1 to 2 days to completely freeze. It then can last up to 2 years!

Top Tip: On average, you can keep flash freeze fish for anywhere from 6 to 12 months.

This is a significant improvement from regular freezing or refrigerating. Fresh raw fish can only last for 1 or 2 days in a fridge (at 40℉) and for 3 to 4 days after cooking. No wonder why flash-freezing fish is sustainable!

Defrosting Flash Freeze Fish

frozen fish

To defrost flash-frozen fish, we recommend taking it out from the freezer and into the fridge at about 35℉ and leaving it overnight.

Then you can submerge the fish in cold water bowls at around 60℉ for anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour. You should be able to tell when the fish is tender enough to use.

One really important tip is to remove the vacuum seal before you defrost. This helps reduce the chances of activating anaerobic bacteria as the temperature drops.

Important Tips for Buying Flash Freeze Fish

If you’re buying your fish frozen instead of doing it at home, there are few tips to keep in mind that will help you get the best quality:

  • Only buy frozen food if the packaging is airtight and intact.
  • Check for freeze burns (that only happens with bad storage temperatures.) That’s why transparent vacuum packaging is a plus! You get to see the product first.
  • Buy from retailers with a high turnover. Their products haven’t been sitting around for ages.
  • Want to save time while defrosting? Marinate the fish at the same time, it’ll soak up the blend as it defrosts.
  • Fully thaw your fish before cooking. Don’t rush it.

FAQs

Q: Can I refreeze flash-frozen fish after defrosting?

A: We wouldn’t recommend refreezing after defrosting. Freeze-thaw cycles reduce the quality of the food. If you do refreeze, expect a decline in texture, taste, and color with every cycle.

You’re also risking contamination and freeze burns every time you thaw and refreeze your products.

Q: What is the best way to cook flash-frozen fish?

A: Flash-frozen fish is as versatile to cook as fresh ones. You can bake it in the oven, saute it, or fry it.

Q: What is the difference between flash-freezing and curing?

A: Both are methods of preserving food but curing depends on osmolarity rather than chilling. Cured fish has been processed with a high-concentration salt solution to inhibit microbial growth.

The thing is, flash-freezing won’t change the fish taste as drastically as curing would.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to Clarence Birdseye, we can now flash freeze our food to enjoy it all year round. Seafood is nutritious, delicious, and suits a lot of tastes. So, why limit yourself to what’s available locally when flash frozen options are out there.

Flash-frozen fish retains a lot of the quality and texture of the fresh ones. As a plus, flash freezing is also sustainable and eco-friendly when it comes to shipping around the globe.

If you’re the type to capture more fish than you can eat in one sitting, learning how to flash freeze fish is a skill for you to master!

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