Freezing is the method most people prefer for preserving fresh fish and other seafood products. Precautions must be taken to guard against flavor and textural changes that can take place during frozen storage.
When fish is frozen, several processes involved in spoilage are temporarily interrupted.
First, freezing temperatures inhibit the growth of bacteria, which is the main cause of spoilage in fresh fish. Cold temperatures also prevent enzymatic action in the gut and tissues of fish, which can reduce quality by causing tissue breakdown and changes in flavor and aroma.
Whether you are packing your fish in the form of fillets, steaks, roasts or whole, it needs to be packaged properly to protect it against quality loss during frozen storage.
Two defects in particular cause most of the problems in frozen seafood products. One is freezer burn, which is caused by moisture loss and results in toughening of the tissue. The other is the development of off-flavors due to oxidation, a problem especially in high-fat species of fish like salmon, trout and whitefish.
Use the best wrapping material and packaging methods available. These would include vacuum packaging, freezer bags and plastic wraps used along with aluminum foil or freezer paper.
Freeze fish as rapidly as possible. If you keep the freezer temperature higher than its lowest setting, turn your freezer down to its coldest setting. You can return the freezer to the original setting after the fish is completely frozen. Store frozen food at 0 degrees or below for optimum quality.
Don't try to freeze too much at once. If fish is frozen slowly, large ice crystals may develop inside the flesh tissues which can cause ruptured tissue cells. Ruptured tissue cells means increased moisture loss during thawing. This will affect both texture and flavor of the cooked product.
Typically, lean fish can be stored longer than fatty fish and large fish can be stored a little longer than small ones. The Alaska Cooperative Extension publication, "Home Freezing of Fish" contains a fish freezer storage chart for whole, steaks and fillets.
Note: The best method for thawing seafood is under cold running water. The fish should be in a waterproof plastic bag with all of the air forced out. Place the bag into a pan, kettle or sink and run cold water into the container and over the plastic bag.
This information can be found in the free publication "Home Freezing of Fish." For more information about preserving fish or to request a free copy of this publication, contact Cooperative Extension Service at 262-5824 or (800) 478-5824.
Linda Athons is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension office on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.