Practicing the correct fish cold storage methods is not only important for the quality and taste of your food but for the safety of your customers too. Our comprehensive guide will help you to store fish correctly, so you can make the most of your produce.
The get the most out of your fish, you should practice good storage methods for both fresh and frozen produce. Storing fish correctly will not only extend its life but ensure that the taste, texture and appearance are of the highest quality.
The most important rule to follow when storing fish is that raw and cooked fish should always be kept separate. If raw and cooked foods have to be stored in the same cold storage unit, raw fish must be well sealed and stored as far away as possible to prevent cross contamination. Even with adequate packaging tears and leaks can still occasionally occur, making it unwise to take any kind of risk.
Good packaging not only ensures you’re left with a safer, more hygienic piece of fish but a better tasting one too. Whilst some types of fish are mild and delicate, others have a much stronger odour. Without proper packaging, the smells and flavours of stronger fish can permeate milder ones, ruining their unique taste. Much like raw and cooked foods, mild fish should be stored well away from stronger types for a better flavour.
The best way to freeze fresh fish
Freezing fish correctly can greatly improve the flavour and look of your fish, as well as minimising wastage. The best way to freeze fresh fish is using rapid blast freezing because the quicker you freeze fish, the more vitamins and flavour it will retain. Fish should always be rapidly frozen at a minimum of -18°C, although -30°C is preferred.
When freezing fish in a blast freezer, it’s important to avoid packing fish too tightly or exceeding the cold stores capacity, as this can greatly increase the time produce takes to freeze. The longer your fish takes to freeze, the more likely it is to succumb to deterioration, leaving you with an inferior and possibly unsafe product.
Alongside this, when freezing large quantities of fish it’s advisable to allow each row to fully freeze before stacking a further row on top. This ensures that each batch of fish is properly frozen in the quickest time possible.
Can you re-freeze fish?
There is a lot of speculation over whether or not you can or should refreeze fish once it has thawed and it is particularly important to know the answer to this when serving or distributing fish to the public.
Firstly, fish should always be kept frozen at a minimum temperature of -18°C and this should be regularly checked whilst in storage. This is because fish at -10°C will often look and smell the same as a fish frozen at -18°C but it may not necessarily be safe. Lower temperatures lead to faster product deterioration. So if fish has started to thaw or dropped below -18°C it should not be refrozen.
During the early stages of deterioration, it can be hard to tell if fish has already been tainted by harmful bacteria, so if you’re not certain you shouldn’t take the risk. Whether you already have fish in storage or are receiving a shipment from elsewhere, it’s important to check the temperature of the fish on arrival and regularly throughout its time in storage. If it has started to defrost, don’t refreeze it.
How long can you freeze fish?
The lifespan of fish varies depending on the type of fish and the temperature it has been frozen at. The chart below gives an approximate indication of how long fish should be frozen for before it is no longer fit for consumption.
|Type of fish||Approximate storage time at -18°C||Approximate storage time at -30°C|
|Lean fish fillets (cod, bass, halibut, etc.)||Up to 9 months||24 months|
|Glazed fatty fish (mackerel, tuna, salmon etc.)||Up to 5 months||12+ months|
|Smoked fish||Up to 3 months||–|
|Flatfish||Up to 10 months||24+ months|
|Uncooked seafood (prawns, squid, scallops)||3-6 months||–|
|Cooked seafood||Up to 5 months||Up to 12 months|
The above storage times should be taken as an approximate value, as there are many factors that can lead to faster deterioration. These could include fluctuations in temperature due to fish being transferred and transported, inadequate storage methods in cold store units or even unsuitable packing.
Ensuring employees follow the correct methods of storage and handling will help to prolong the life and quality of fish for the longest possible time.
The best way to store fresh fish
As fresh fish has an incredibly short shelf life, normally around 1-4 days, proper storage is vital to retain quality and taste. Legally, fresh fish containing no frozen water must be stored at or close to 0°C. Anything above 4°C will result in rapid deterioration, causing fish to quickly become unfit for consumption.
Using a temperature controlled refrigeration unit will help to successfully chill and maintain your fish at the required level. Once in storage, this temperature should be regularly checked and any produce above 4°C should be thrown away. Any fish taken out of a controlled temperature unit should be used immediately and on no account should warm fish be returned to cold storage.
Cold stores regulate temperature by releasing a continuous flow of cold air around the unit and if this flow is obstructed, the temperature will suffer. Therefore, to get the most out of your refrigerated cold stores and the most out of your fish, avoid packing above capacity. Much like packing and storing frozen fish, you should never pack fresh fish together too tightly, as this will affect the temperature and ultimately the quality of your produce.
To ensure fish stays as fresh as possible, it’s always recommended to keep it in a professional cold store unit. Regular domestic fridges simply cannot offer the same level of temperature control and can leave you with unsafe fish and heavy wastage.