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Freezer Burn On Fish (Can You Save It?)

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Everyone who freezes food has faced the problem of freezer burn. While all foods get freezer burn, it is more noticeable on such delicate products as fish.

Can you save freezer-burned fish? It is completely safe to eat freezer-burned fish. For the best results, you should cut off the affected parts and cook the fish along with spices, herbs, and other aromatic ingredients to disguise the flavor and texture changes. 

In this article, you will learn everything about freezer burn on fish, why it happens, how to prevent it, and what are some ways to save freezer-burned fish. 

What Is Freezer Burn?

If you use your freezer often to store different products, you have certainly come across the problem of some of the foods looking a little weird after some time. 

Foods stored in the freezer can get fully covered in ice crystals and start to look textured and grainy. Sometimes you can also notice discoloration on them. 

All these signs may make you think that the food has simply gone bad and you should simply discard it. However, these are the signs of freezer burn which is a common phenomenon affecting products in cold storage. 

Freezer burn happens as a result of the loss of moisture from foods. This happens to any food stored in the freezer, including meat and poultry, fruits and vegetables

When you freeze food, the water in them turns into ice crystals. These ice crystals first migrate to the surface of the food. Then, they get to the coldest part of the freezer. 

This happens through sublimation. Sublimation is when water (or other liquids) turns into gas skipping the stage of becoming liquid. This is how the water from different foods manages to travel to other parts of the freezer. 

This process leaves food dehydrated, causing significant quality issues. 

Why Does Freezer Burn Happen?

There are two main reasons why foods get freezer burn! 

First, freezer burn may happen if you have had the food in the freezer for too long. And second, which is a more common cause of freezer burn, you may not have wrapped the food properly before putting it in the freezer

Properly stored food may start getting freezer burn after around 6 months of being in the freezer.

If your food starts to get freezer burn too soon, it’s time to start learning more about the proper ways of freezing food as you are probably doing something wrong. 

In very rare cases, freezer burn may happen because of a malfunctioning freezer. 

Does Fish Get Freezer Burn?

As mentioned earlier, all foods get freezer burn, including fish. The causes for fish getting freezer burn are the same as for any other food in the freezer. 

Fish can get freezer burn as a result of improper storage or sitting too long in the freezer

What Are The Signs Of Freezer Burn On Fish?

The signs of freezer burn on fish are pretty much the same as for poultry. Your fish is freezer burn if it has:

  • Grayish discolored spots
  • Ice buildup in the form of ice crystals 
  • Flavor changes 
  • Texture changes 

You can notice the last two signs only after cooking the fish. 

The flavor of freezer-burned fish is not as pleasant as the flavor of properly frozen and defrosted fish.

It may range from tasteless to tasting like other foods in your freezer. It is common for freezer-burned fish to have an off-putting aftertaste too. 

As for the texture, fish with freezer burn is typically dry and chewy. This is not surprising as in the process of getting freezer burn the moisture escapes from the fish.

Is It Safe To Eat Freezer-Burned Fish?

A popular question regarding freezer burn on food is whether it is safe to eat freezer-burned food or not. The answer is yes, you can totally eat food that has suffered freezer burn. 

And fish is not an exception! If you haven’t had the fish in the freezer for too long but it has got freezer burn, you can cook and eat it without any worry.

With this said, if some parts of the fish have suffered heavier freezer burn, it is best to cut them out and cook the rest of the fish.

While severe freezer burn doesn’t make the food dangerous for consumption, it affects the flavor and texture of freezer-burned fish so much that it is best to not use it

Additionally, even though freezer-burned fish is safe for consumption, you should never forget to practice food safety as there are many factors that can make the fish go bad. 

To avoid mistaking freezer-burned fish for bad fish, always label your products before putting them in the freezer. And make sure to check the fish for signs of spoilage especially after you have defrosted it. 

How To Prevent Freezer Burn

While freezer burn affects the quality of the fish and not its safety, no one wants to deal with freezer burn on fish. 

To prevent freezer burn on fish, you need to freeze it properly and preferably use it within a few months. 

Freezer burn happens when the fish is exposed to the cold air of the freezer. Thus, no matter which freezing method you use, it is important to make sure that the fish is fully covered and no part of it is exposed to air. 

If you have a vacuum sealer at home, it would be great to use it to freeze fish (if you don’t have a vacuum sealer, we’d recommend this one!). Freezing fish fillets in water is another tip people find works wonders against freezer burn.

How To Freeze Fish To Prevent Freezer Burn

Here is how to store fish in the freezer to avoid freezer burn if you don’t have a vacuum sealer. 

  1. Remove the fish from its original packaging if it comes in one. 
  2. Glaze the fish (this is dipping the fish into clean water which will then form a protective layer on it). 
  3. Place the glazed fish into heavy-duty zip-top bags. While an airtight container will work too, you can create a vacuum-sealed effect when using a plastic bag. To do this, you need to suck out the excess air from the bag with the help of a straw. Or, simply push out the excess air from the bag with your hands. 
  4. Make sure to not fill your bag or container with fish up to the very top. As the fish freezes, it expands. This may cause the packaging to open and expose the fish to air. 
  5. Label with the date. 
  6. Place the fish in the coldest part of the freezer, and use it as soon as possible. 

Note: If you are freezing cooked fish, it is essential to let it cool before storing it in the freezer. Otherwise, you will trap moisture inside the container or bag which will then turn into ice crystals. 

Freezing Fish In Water

As noted above, there are people who prefer to freeze fish in water. Having the fish fully submerged in water eliminates the risk of the fish getting in contact with air, thus preventing freezer burn. 

And while some people believe this is the best method to freeze fish, others find that the water takes away some of the flavor of the fish. 

Here’s how to freeze fish in water in 3 easy steps:

  1. Clean the fish fillets really well. 
  2. Fill a zip-top bag with water. 
  3. Place the fillets into the bag with water making sure the fillets are fully submerged. Label the bags with the date and freeze the fish. 

Can You Save Freezer-Burned Fish?

As you already know, it is safe to eat freezer-burned fish despite all the texture and flavor changes. So, you can still cook it and eat it however you want; however, the flavor and texture of the fish won’t be enjoyable. 

To save freezer-burned fish, cut off the freezer-burned parts. If with some pieces the freezer burn goes too deep into the fish, discard them. Once you have removed the affected parts, proceed to cook the fish in your desired way. 

How To Cook Freezer-Burned Fish To Make It Taste Better?

Technically, you can cook freezer-burned fish however you want. But it may not taste as good as fish that hasn’t suffered freezer burn. 

To make sure no one notices the freezer-burned flavor of the fish, we recommend you don’t use it as a standalone ingredient.

Pair it with other ingredients to disguise the flavor changes. Here are a few ideas for making freezer-burned fish taste better.

  • Marinate the fish in a mixture of lemon juice and aromatic spices and herbs before you cook it in the oven. 
  • Make fish curry. The spices used in this dish will effectively disguise the off-flavor of the fish. 
  • Use freezer-burned fish to make chowder. The texture changes won’t be noticeable in this hearty dish and the rich creamy flavor won’t let you notice the flavor changes. 

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