How to Prepare Frozen Fish
It’s not always easy to get to the market before dinner, especially if you work full-time, or have children at home. It’s often easier to purchase food in bulk, place it in the freezer, and prepare it during the week. Frozen fish can be bought ahead of time- but be careful, not all seafood items are freezer-friendly.
Which Fish are OK to Buy Frozen?
Some fish freeze well while others do not. Species that you might consider buying frozen are- salmon, cod, swordfish, monkfish, halibut, orange roughy, sole, and tilapia. Fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines and trout may be difficult to freeze and defrost due to their high fat content.
There are a few ways to defrost frozen fish. First, if the fish is in a vacuum-sealed (cryovaced) pouch you can simply remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator. In 12-16 hours the fish will thaw completely. If you are in a rush, you can run the fish under cold water- this procedure will usually defrost the fish within 20-30 minutes. If your seafood isn’t in a sealed container, put in on a small plate in the refrigerator and let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Never defrost fish under warm or hot water- this is not a safe food practice.
Preparing the Fish
Once the fish is defrosted, there are many ways to prepare it for a quick, healthy meal. My favorite way to make fish when I am in a rush is to bake it. Make sure your oven is pre-heated to 350 degrees. Place your fish on a clean, sanitized surface and put a few drops of extra virgin olive oil on the surface of the fillet. Massage both sides of the fish with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 6-8minutes (your time may vary depending on the size or thickness of your fillet). Remove from the oven and squeeze some fresh lemon juice on the surface of the fish.
Grilling is another good alternative if you don’t want to turn your oven on, especially during summer months. Coat the fish with olive oil, salt and pepper as described previously and place it on a pre-heated gas or charcoal grill. After the fish cooks for 3-4 minutes, carefully flip it with a metal spatula. Remove it from the grill after an additional 4 minutes of cooking. My favorite accompaniments for grilled fish are mango salsa, fruit chutneys, and homemade citrus butters. Salmon, halibut, and swordfish are ideal for the grill. More delicate fish such as flounder, sole, and orange roughy and cod may be more difficult to grill.
Pan searing works well with most whitefish species such as flounder, sole and cod. The procedure is quite simple. Season both sides of your fish with salt and pepper. Place 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Dredge the fish in flour, shaking the excess from the fillet. Carefully put the fillet in the pan and let it cook for 3-4 minutes a side. Once the fish is done cooking, place it on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Serve with lemon wedges, or homemade tartar sauce.
I rarely deep-fry fish, but when I do, it’s for a fish sandwich. Place a medium-sized soup pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add enough veggie or olive oil to fill the pot half way. I usually use tilapia, or a fat piece of cod for my sandwiches. There are a few ways to do this. You can make a simple beer batter, or use breading. Place the battered or breaded fish in the oil once it has reached 350 degrees, and fry until golden brown- this usually takes usually 3-4 minutes. Drain, and serve immediately.
One of my favorite fish preparations is with salmon. Season both sides of the fillet with salt and pepper. Mix equal parts apricot jelly and Dijon mustard. Apply a liberal amount of this mixture to the top of the salmon; coat with panko breadcrumbs and bake in a 350-degree oven for 10-12 minutes.
Frozen fish is equally as nutritious as fresh fish if handled and prepared correctly. If you’re a busy parent, or just trying to improve your health, consider having a few different types on hand in your freezer.
Chef Chuck Kerber