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Tips for Freezing Fish

Before freezing cut large fish into 1-inch thick fillets.

Seafood is a healthy, refreshing ingredient for any meal. But to make sure your seafood stays fresh, follow these guidelines for freezing fish at home.

General guidelines

  • Freeze seafood as soon as possible after your purchase.
  • Chill fish in ice or in the refrigerator until you're ready to freeze it.

Freezing fish

  • Clean, rinse, and drain fish.
  • Freeze small fish in one piece. Cut large fish into 1-inch thick steaks or fillets.

You can choose from several packaging methods. Packages should not be more than 1 inch thick.

  • Wrap fish tightly in plastic wrap or a similar moisture- and vapor-proof material. Keep as much air as possible out of the package. Over-wrap packaged fish with freezer paper or aluminum foil to protect the plastic wrap.
  • Place fish in zippered plastic freezer bags. Press the bag gently to remove air. Seal the bag. Over-wrap packaged fish with freezer paper or aluminum foil to protect the freezer bag.
  • Place fish in a vacuum packaging bag. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for creating a vacuum and sealing the bag.
  • Place fish in 1-inch thick rigid plastic sandwich containers or milk cartons. Fill container to the top and seal. Cover the fish with water before sealing, if desired, to prevent drying or oxidation of the fish during storage.

Label packages with type of fish and date.

Fish will freeze quickly in single layers. A 1-inch thick package will freeze completely in about 16 hours. Thicker packages or packages stacked on top of each other during freezing will take several hours longer.

Freezing smoked fish

Freeze smoked fish as soon as you remove it from the smoker. Brush pieces of smoked fish with salad oil, if you desire, to slow dehydration and oxidation during frozen storage. Choose one of the packaging methods described above for freezing fish.

Thawing frozen seafood

Thaw frozen seafood in the refrigerator (about 18 hours for a 1-inch thick package) or under cold running water (about 1 hour for a 1-inch thick package). Don't thaw frozen seafood at room temperature or under warm running water. The thinner parts of the seafood thaw faster than thicker parts, and the outer edges may start to spoil before the center has thawed.

Storing frozen seafood

Store frozen fish at 0 degrees F or colder. The storage life of frozen seafood is longer at lower temperatures. Store frozen shellfish, fatty fish such as salmon, and smoked fish no longer than 3 to 4 months for best quality. Store frozen lean fish such as rockfish, sole, and flounder for no longer than 6 to 9 months.

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