Storing Fresh Seafood At Home
--photo by Captain Troy Frady
Fresh Gag Grouper caught in Orange Beach should be fresh looking and are usually thick filets. You should put them on ice quickly. Do not let fresh fish soak in water. Keep them in sealed plastic bags at around 32 to 33 degrees to preserve freshness.
Most of you come to the Alabama Gulf Coast for a vacation. Some of you go fishing and others go and purchase fresh seafood to take home. The most important factor in buying fresh seafood is knowing how to store it after you return home.
Maintaining the highest quality should be your priority. Keeping your fresh seafood from deteriorating from the time you buy it until the time you plan on eating it is very important. Most of your refrigerators are set to around 40 to 42 degrees. This is not cold enough to keep your seafood fresh. Remember on the previous page about the deterioration of fish? Fish kept at freezing temperature stays fresher twice as long as it does if kept at 10 degrees cooler like in a refrigerator.
Don't waste time, get your seafood on ice quickly
We see people every day walk down the dock in the hot sun with their bags of fresh Snapper, Grouper and Triggerfish in hand. You need to immediately get those fish filets chilled down to about freezing temperature. You should always bring a cooler with you on a fishing trip to immediately help preserve the flavor and freshness.
You need to keep the fish iced down at all times. You should drain the water off daily. You do not want any water to touch your fish. You need to replenish ice a few times a day. A generous dusting of rock salt that you use in an ice cream freezer will help lower the freezing temperature and help preserve your fish. The idea is not to freeze it yet. You want to keep it cold, not frozen. Do not use ice packs because they can freeze the portion of fish they touch. Use a towel or something inbetween the ice packs and bags of fish to prevent damage to the fish.
Freezing Seafood Quickly Helps Preserve Freshness
Most all species of fish can be frozen at home if properly layed in a freezer bag in thin layers. If you can, suck out the air in the bag and seal quickly. If you have a vacuum sealer, use it. Tuna does not freeze well because most people freeze it in large roasts. You need to cut it into thin steaks 1" or so and vacuum seal them. Remember, slow forming ice crystals will ruin the texture of fish. Tuna is an unusual meat and should be frozen quickly with no air touching the flesh.
You should never place fish in bags or gallon jugs and freeze in a block of ice. The fish should not be touching water at all when freezing. The water temperature is about air temperature and when placed on top of fish in a bag, actually starts breaking down the seafoods texture.
You should always eat your fish fresh. There are a lot of people who catch too much fish and end up putting it in the freezer and forget about it for four to six months. When they go to get it, they see the discoloration and are scared to eat it. They end up throwing it away and end up wasting a fish.
Responsible fishermen should always take what they can eat in a reasonable amount of time. Taking more fish that you can eat is a poor practice. This is the reason why some fish stocks like Red Snapper and Grouper are being overfished. Remember, do the right thing and take what you need, not what you can.