The proper way to store fish and shellfish

We often receive questions about the best way to store seafood. Proper food handling is extremely important for guaranteeing quality and safety and is paramount for seafood because it’s often more perishable than other foods. Spoilage can happen quickly. Enzymes within seafood flesh kick start the decaying process, which is further helped by naturally occurring microorganisms. Knowing the best ways to safely store seafood can help to make it last longer, taste its best, and limit any risk of illness!

Ideally, fresh fish and shellfish should be kept between 1.5 to 2˚C. For fresh seafood, make sure you never go under 0˚C or over 4˚C! Check your fridge temperature. You might need to consider turning your fridge temperature down to maximize seafood freshness, but make sure it’s not too cold for other fresh products such as fruits and vegetables. The lucky folks among us will have a separate compartment with a colder setting, but regardless, the following information will let you know how long your catch will last and the best ways to store it:

 

Fresh and Frozen Fish

Most sources such as Health Canada recommend that you consume fresh fish within two days of purchase. However, this time varies depending on how fresh the fish really is. Fish could last for up to four or more days after purchase. When purchasing with from your local fishmonger, the best way to be sure is to just ask what they recommend! A good fishmonger will know when your fish was harvested and how long it’ll last under ideal conditions. Alternatively, when purchasing from grocery stores there is often a best before the date that should be followed.

If you can’t consume your fresh fish in time, freezing is a great option to prolong freshness. Your fish should be packaged so that there is little to no air left ꟷ vacuum packing works wonders ꟷ but if you don’t have one, squeezing as much air out as possible will do the trick. Another option is to fill a container with cold seawater or salted water and place the portions of fish in there to freeze. Take note that fish fattier fish like salmon and mackerel can’t be stored as long as those with little fat such as cod or hake. As a rule of thumb, fattier fish can remain in the freezer for up to 3 months, while low-fat fish can be stored for up to 6 months – in your home freezer. When fish has been stored in a commercial or industrial freezer, it is generally good up to 2 years from being packed!

 

Fresh and Frozen Shellfish

Fresh live shellfish should be stored in the refrigerator in a bowl with a damp cloth or paper towel over top. Any live product should never be stored while submerged in water or sealed in air-tight containers or bags because they’ll soon perish from lack of oxygen! Also, be sure to empty any water that accumulates at the bottom of the bowl ꟷ this is particularly common in mussels as they release a lot of water.

The freshness and quality of your shellfish will depend on how long it can be stored in the fridge. Health Canada suggests that all shellfish be consumed within three days, however, when bought fresh and local from fishmongers like us, we can recommend up to a week for mussels and clams, and up to three weeks for oysters! For fresh scallops and shrimp, we suggest no more than two days.

Whether you have leftovers or just want to save some of your shellfish for later, we recommend you cook your shellfish, or you can remove the meat and store in a freezer bag or container submerged in a brine solution or the cooled liquid that it was cooked in. For oysters specifically, it’s best to shuck the oysters and save the liquid to cover the oysters in. Below are some suggested freezer storing times:

  • Lobster – 3-4 months
  • Scallops – 6 months
  • Mussels – 3-4 months
  • Clams – 3-4 months
  • Oysters – 4-6 months
  • Shrimp – 4-6 months

 

As always, if you ever have any seafood related questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us through our website, or to come have a chat with us in person at the Warehouse at 2867 Isleville Street in Halifax’s North End on Thursdays and Fridays from 11 to 7, during the market day,ans Saturdays from 9-1.

Fresh vs. Frozen – Which is better?

The classic fresh versus frozen debate has taken the world of seafood by storm for decades. In the past, fresh seafood dominated mainly due to frozen seafood—often in the form of mushy fish sticks—having such a poor reputation in the public eye. We think it’s time to debunk the myth and celebrate frozen seafood for its many qualities.

While fresh seafood straight off the boat is undoubtedly top quality, consumers rarely have the opportunity to eat such a luxury. The rise of globalization has led to a large amount of seafood imports here in Atlantic Canada, and fresh seafood may not be as fresh as you think, especially once it’s traveled thousands of miles just to get to your plate. Much of the seafood we consume has actually been imported, and freezing is critical to ensuring freshness. In fact, when seafood is immediately flash frozen—a type of freezing where seafood is frozen between -40˚C to -60˚C degrees extremely quickly—it stays much fresher for much longer. And frozen seafood can be more environmentally friendly, since fresh fish is often shipped by air, requiring more energy than frozen fish, which can travel by boat, rail, or truck.

When you purchase frozen product instead of fresh from small-scale operations you help to support the fishermen and relieve the pressure they face to deliver fresh product immediately after it was caught. Additionally, frozen portions allow consumers to take only what they need from their freezer, and reduce the amount of waste produced in households. Imagine trying to consume this whole Yellowfin Tuna before it goes bad!

Photo: Fishtube.tv

Afishionado sources sustainable handline-caught Yellowfin Tuna from Vietnam and Indonesia that come in convenient eight ounces portioned Saku blocks and steaks, loins, ground meat, or poke pieces. Click to check them out. Frozen seafood is often more affordable than its fresh counterpart and it can be consumed all year long!

Much of the debate between fresh and frozen has also been on the health and nutritional differences between the two. Many people believe that frozen seafood is a lot less nutritionally dense than fresh. The truth is that this difference is minimal. While the water released during thawing does contain some nutrients when thawing is done correctly and if the seafood has been frozen immediately after harvest there, is barely any loss at all. And frozen is often safer to eat because the freezing process kills harmful bacteria!

So yes, if you are living close to the shore and have access to fresh fish that is in season and locally caught, then fresh may be a good option for you, but in all other situations, we feel that frozen can often be a better option.

 

FROZEN PRODUCT 101

A couple tips for ensuring your frozen fish is as fresh and as tasty as possible:

  • Defrost fish in the refrigerator or in a cold-water bath – do not place in warm water as it will impact the texture of the fish.
  • Avoid refreezing fish once it has thawed. From a safety perspective, this is okay to do, but it will comprise the texture of the fish.
  • Know where your seafood is coming from to ensure it has been frozen correctly.
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