Fresh fish need to be stored in a special way so they don't spoil and are kept in the best possible condition before preparation and consumption. The key to preserving fish freshness is to control the temperature. Fresh fish need to stay on ice from fishing to storage. If you are a fisherman, this means controlling the temperature of the fish as soon as it comes into the boat. If you bought the fish, be prepared to store the meat on ice well packaged until it is time to cook or freeze.
Method 1 of 3: Storing Freshly Caught Fish
Step 1. Fill an insulated cooler with water and ice
If you are a fisherman, you will have to start thinking about preserving the flavor and temperature of the fish as soon as you catch it. There are two options to achieve maximum freshness: you can keep the fish alive in a tank inside the boat and do the rest when on land.
- The second option is to kill the fish immediately and place it in an insulated container with a little water and plenty of ice.
- Purchase an insulated cooler with a drainage hole.
Step 2. Add ice and drain water from the cooler regularly
The fish needs to stay as cold as possible while inside the cooler. Open the drainage hole in the cooler so that the ice that has already turned into water can slowly come out, making room for more ice. Don't leave the dead fish in melted ice, as this will spoil the taste of it.
- If you can, use ice shavings in the cooler. Place the fish on the ice the same way it swims, that is, belly down.
- Leave the fish's bodies surrounded by ice.
Step 3. Get the gills and stomachs out as fast as you can
Cleaning the fish as early as possible will preserve its flavor better, but if you've taken the day off fishing, you probably won't be able to clean the fish right away. You can leave this task for a few hours (as long as the fish is kept on ice), but you need to remove their gill and stomach cavities as quickly as you can.
- The gills and stomachs have droppings and you need to remove them quickly so you don't spoil the meat's flavor.
- Removing these parts also gives you the chance to fill these ice holes to make the fish even colder.
Step 4. Clean the fish within 24 hours of catching it
As long as it stays in an ice cooler and you refill the ice, you can keep it for a day before cleaning and still keep the flavor and freshness. Keep the stomach and gill areas filled with ice. Keep them upright, in the same position as the fish swim. This allows the fish to release excess fluid from their cavities. Cover the fish with more ice and close the cooler.
- The fish will not be gooey when you take it out to clean it because you kept it on ice and let it drain. This makes handling easier.
- You won't get a strong or unpleasant fishy smell when you take them out to clean, cutting the meat will be easier too.
Method 2 of 3: Refrigerating Fresh Fish
Step 1. Rinse freshly cleaned fish with cold water
Before putting the fish in the fridge, give it a good rinse to make sure there are no scales or other debris left. Use the coldest water you have on tap. Never rinse fresh fish with warm or hot water. After rinsing, dry it with sheets of paper towels or a clean tea towel.
Step 2. Wrap the meat tightly in wax paper, plastic wrap or aluminum foil
Once the fish is all rolled up, seal the ends well so that the meat is not exposed to air. Oxygen contributes to the breakdown of meat, especially in fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel. Ice must not enter the package.
- Never let fish meat touch or lie directly on ice. Always pack the fish with something first to protect it.
- If you brought fresh fish from the market or the market, keep it in the package it came in.
Step 3. Place the packed fish on ice
The secret to keeping fish fresh and keeping meat on ice and as cold as possible until it's time to cook. After wrapping the meat, place the packages back in an insulated cooler with ice. Once you've packed the ice packs, fill some plastic bags with more shaved ice and seal them to make sure they don't leak.
- Place 2 to 5 cm of ice in plastic bags.
- Put these plastic bags over the fish. Tightly close the cooler cover.
Step 4. Place the cooler inside your refrigerator and leave it for a day or two
Place an empty container below the cooler and open its drainage hole to let the melted ice out of the cooler. The container will collect this water. You will have to empty this container periodically. Make sure the water that has formed from the ice is flowing freely through the hole. Even when packaged, fish should not remain in the water. The ice packs need to be replaced every day.
- Large pieces of fish are better to keep in the fridge than small ones.
- Lean fish (panfish, sea bass, green pepper, plaice, sole, red fish, catfish, cod) will keep better in the fridge than fatter ones (trout, salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, carp, Chilean sea bass).
Method 3 of 3: Freezing Fish for Later Use
Step 1. Place clean fish inside plastic bags to freeze food
Before closing, get all the air out of the plastic bags or at least as much as you can. Oxygen can make meat lose flavor and spoil faster. Once the plastic bags are out of air, close them so that no air can enter.
For safety, it's best to put aluminum foil into the plastic bags first and then put a moisture-proof, freezer-safe paper before putting them into the freezer
Step 2. Freeze fresh fish with a block of ice
This is an alternative way to safely freeze fresh fish without having to put them inside sealed plastic bags. Put fish directly into a pot to freeze clean food. Fill the pot with water until it covers the fish. Take the pot to the freezer.
The block of ice that will be around the fish will prevent oxygen from reaching the meat
Step 3. Consume frozen fish within 12 months
As long as you've placed the fish in airless plastic bags before putting it in the freezer, most frozen fish will stay good for consumption for up to 12 months. For the best flavor and freshness, consume the fish within three months. Lean fish last longer than fatter ones. Remember this.
- When you want to cook the fish, defrost the meat by putting it in the fridge for one night.
- Never thaw fish in the microwave or leaving it out of the refrigerator at room temperature.