Fish is always a healthy homemade meal option, regardless of the season. The meal options for fish are virtually limitless, whether your recipe calls for pan-frying a whole fish and serving it with a dollop of tartar sauce or a straightforward one-pan bake.
But where should you put the raw fish in your refrigerator before you make your fish fillets? What food safety precautions should the head cook take at home?
We spoke with Meredith Abbott, Manager of Culinary Content at Sur La Table, to get the answers. She provided insight into the ideal methods for preparing and keeping raw fish in your kitchen as a professional chef.
Where Should Raw Fish be Stored in the Refrigerator?
According to Abbott, different proteins should be kept separately in a clean container and at the bottom of your refrigerator under ready-to-eat foods. Fish should be stored as cold as possible, so if you can, pack or layer it with ice or ice packs like you would see at a seafood market.
1. Freezing in a Block of Ice
When freezing fish, you want to avoid exposing it to air, which can ruin the texture and flavor of the finished product. To minimize exposure to air, freeze the fish in a block of ice or cover it with water. This will seal in moisture and prevent oxidation.
Before freezing fish, ensure they are clean and as fresh as possible. To start, wash the fish thoroughly and remove scales and entrails. Next, scrape the skin from the backbone of the fish. You should also remove the back fin. Do not use a knife or shears to remove the bones.
When freezing fish in ice, you should run a stream of water over the frozen block to speed up the process. The stream of water creates a slight convection effect, which speeds up the process. After 30 minutes, you can rinse the fish and pat it dry with paper towels.
2. During Marination
Raw fish should be stored in the refrigerator during marination, preferably in a glass container. This way, the flavors can soak into the irregularities of the fish flesh. Fish should not be exposed to air during marination. Ideally, it should be marinated for at least two hours. After this period, remove the fish from the marinade.
Raw fish can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days in an airtight container. Store the container in a dark, cold place. Place a plate underneath the container to prevent leakage and minimize cross-contamination.
3. After Cooking
To avoid contamination, store raw fish in the original packaging. The original packaging will help prevent bacteria from spreading to other foods in the refrigerator. Similarly, do not store raw fish in containers filled with liquid. Bacteria can travel to other foods and enter your mouth. Once you cook the fish, discard the packaging.
To avoid cross-contamination and deterioration of raw fish, store it in the lower portion of the refrigerator. This is because cold air sinks to the bottom of the refrigerator while warmer air rises. This causes the fish to spoil faster. Luckily, there are a few ways to keep your fish cold, even if you don’t have a refrigerator full of fish.
How to Store Raw Fish?
As previously mentioned, it is never advisable to store meats, fish, or chicken together, unwrapped, but separately in their containers. Abbott advises taking the fresh fish out of the market’s provided packaging before bringing it home.
“Remove the fish you just bought from its packaging or container. Dry the fish thoroughly on all surfaces with paper towels before transferring it to a clean plastic bag or reusable sealable container.” According to Abbott, try to remove as much air as possible from the bag. Seal the bag after the air has been released, then set it on ice.
Until the day you cook the fish, she also suggests daily ice changes. It will remain as cold and fresh as possible in this manner.
Why is Proper Raw Fish Storage Important?
Fish is renowned for having tender meat that can be prepared in various ways. Despite this, fish can easily spoil when purchased from a seafood market if not bought fresh and stored properly.
Fish come into contact with water, which is where the majority of foodborne illnesses are spread. Fish must be properly stored and cooked to the right internal temperature to avoid poisoning consumers.
Fish can spoil due to harmful bacteria or enzymatic reactions. When fish is kept at a cold temperature during storage, both potential sources of spoilage can be significantly reduced or even avoided.
Raw fish is regarded as highly perishable food to maintain safety and freshness and must be handled carefully. Even when in transit, it can quickly spoil. When you keep fish in the refrigerator, the chilly environment significantly reduces the risk of spoilage. Therefore, whenever handling fish, controlled-temperature storage is always advised.
How do you Store Raw Fish in the Fridge?
Your fresh produce needs to be immediately rinsed with cold water if the freshly caught fish provided to you has already experienced rigor mortis. To remove the excess water, the fish must be pat-dried with paper towels after completion.
The fish must be wrapped in plastic, aluminum foil, or freezer paper or kept in an airtight container lined with a single layer of lining to prevent the possibility of cross-contamination. Fish must be frozen within two hours of being caught or purchased. Alternatively, you could store it in the refrigerator; keep it separate from the other foods.
The ideal temperature for the refrigerator must be 40°F (4°C) or below. This will stop fish bacteria from growing unnecessarily.
How Long Until Raw Fish Goes Bad?
Fresh fish can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two days if cleaned and stored correctly. Clean fish can keep for up to three months when contained and kept in the freezer.
The consistency of maintaining the ideal storage temperature affects these estimated shelf-life times. To reduce the risk of contamination by bacteria and other pathogens, food handlers must receive training on the recommended temperatures for raw fish and how to take corrective action in the event of non-compliance.
How do you Preserve Fish Without Refrigeration?
Fresh or raw fish can only be left at room temperature for two hours without refrigeration. The risk of transmitting any foodborne illness increases exponentially after this point. Those with weakened immune systems, such as older adults, pregnant women, and children under five, are most at risk. Are there other ways to preserve your fish if your refrigerator is already full? Fortunately, there are.
Here are some strategies for extending the quality of fresh fish’s quality in a restaurant without refrigeration or even improving it:
- Make use of a cooler. If your refrigerator breaks down or needs maintenance, you can store and preserve your fish using an ice chest with crushed ice or a block of ice. Your ice chest’s capacity will determine how long it can keep the temperature steady. Add salt to the ice to increase the cooling effect and lengthen the effect of the reservation. Since the temperature may drop faster than inside a refrigerator, this method necessitates close observation.
- Dry and salt the fish. This technique relates to preservation. Your fish will dry out faster if you salt it, which will also remove moisture from the meat. You can store your fish in an airtight container and keep it for a longer period once the moisture content has been reduced to a stable level through drying.
- Prepare your fish. Cooking techniques reduce the foodborne microorganisms already present in the fish and stop it from rotting quickly. The fish can be steamed or cooked and warmed up for later use. Fish that has been partially cooked allows you more time to keep it safe for consumption.
- Brine-salting or canning. Fish fillets or whole fish can be preserved using this technique for nine months or longer. Preparing fish for canning must be partially cooked at high temperatures to remove any potential hazards. A glass container and pickling solution are the most common tools for bringing. In contrast, canning uses unique jars or cans and carefully monitored conditions to keep oxygen out of the food.
- Smoking. Smoking is an excellent preservation technique for areas where sunlight is insufficient to dry the soil. This method of preservation gives the fish new and distinctive flavors, and people frequently enjoy the smoky qualities it adds. Depending on the kind of wood used for smoking, different outcomes occur.
Temperature control is a component of each of these alternate techniques. Food handlers must have the right tools and training to ensure the right conditions, whether with a cooler or warm temperature. Incorporate temperature monitoring in your food safety management system (FSMS). You can do this feature with our digital solution at FoodDocs.
With our digital FSMS, you can get automatically generated monitoring forms with an auto-fill feature. Our digital solution can help you gain more accuracy in monitoring temperature and efficiency in fulfilling every food safety task.
Although fish is a delicious, healthy, and excellent meal, it is a delicate and less forgiving type of meat.
Raw fish must be kept in an airtight container and ideally in a dark, cold location for two to three days in the refrigerator.
To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, place a plate underneath to catch any leaks and try to keep other food from getting too close.