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2 Best Tips: How to Defrost Fish Fast

At Lake Geneva Country Meats, we sell a lot of frozen fish, so we’re often asked how to defrost fish. That’s a great question, and in this post, we are going to share our two best tips on how to defrost fish fast!

What are the benefits of frozen fish?

benefits of frozen fish

Before we talk about how to defrost fish, we should probably talk about why we sell frozen fish, and what the benefits of purchasing frozen fish are.

  1. Year round availability: frozen fish can be caught in the proper season, processed on the boat, and then flash frozen for you to eat whenever you want. The quality of the fish won’t degrade, and you can enjoy your favorite seafood year-round.
  2. Quality: as we mentioned above, most frozen fish is processed right on the boat where it was caught and then flash frozen. This locks in the quality and keeps it at peak freshness no matter when you enjoy it. Fresh seafood has to go on a much longer journey to get to you!
  3. Price: frozen fish does not have to be rushed here, there, and everywhere. We all know transport costs are expensive! Being able to take a slow boat back to harbor and then a refrigerated truck rather than plane to the store keeps prices lower.
  4. There is no difference in nutrition: frozen fish has exactly the same nutritional qualities. So don’t worry, when you select the sustainability and lower prices of frozen fish, you’re not sacrificing anything when it comes to nutrition!
  5. Sustainability: finally, it is good to note that because of the lower intensity transport methods, eating frozen seafood helps lower the carbon footprint of consuming seafood. You can also look for brands that stress sustainability and traceability when purchasing frozen seafood.

We proudly stock and recommend Wixter Seafood, a leader in providing quality frozen seafood that with incredible traceability and sustainability credentials.

The best way to defrost fish.

best way to defrost fish

The absolute best way to defrost frozen fish is in your refrigerator. It’s easy, simple and makes sure that the fish never reaches a temperature that would possibly allow food-borne pathogens to grow. Here is how to defrost fish in your refrigerator:

  1. Place the fish on a plate or small baking tray. This step is optional, but it catches any juices that may come out of the packaging and helps keep your refrigerator clean.
  2. Let the fish sit in the refrigerator until is is defrosted. If you let the fish sit overnight, it will definitely be defrosted, and almost all fish will completely defrost if you put it in the refrigerator the morning before you cook it.
  3. Once the fish is defrosted, remove it from the packaging, and pat dry with paper towel before cooking.

See, it’s super simple to defrost frozen fish in your refrigerator, and once you put in the refrigerator, you can forget about it until you’re ready to cook it!

How best to defrost frozen fish fast.

fast way to defrost fish

If you forgot to think ahead the night before or morning of cooking your frozen fish, you can defrost fish in cold water. It will save you time, and still is safe. However, it requires a bit more work on your part. Here is how to defrost fish in cold water:

  1. Make sure the fish is sealed in a vacuum type of packaging. If it’s not, place it in a sealable plastic bag and zip it up tight!
  2. Place the fish in a bowl (medium to big size) and cover it with cool (not cold, not warm, cool) water. We recommend leaving the bowl and fish in your sink to minimize mess.
  3. If the fish is coming to the top of the water, use a weighted plate to keep it submerged, otherwise the two sides won’t defrost at the same rate.
  4. Once the fish is defrosted, take it out of the water, remove it from the packaging, pat it dry with paper towel, and proceed to cook it!

Your fish should defrost in about 30 – 60 minutes using this method. Check and see if it’s defrosted after 30 minutes, and if it’s not, change the water and give it 30 more minutes.

How long is fish good for once I defrost the fish?

Once you defrost fish, you should cook it within 24 – 48 hours. If you wait longer than that, quality and safety problems can start to pop up. Remember, give your fish the smell test and if something smells off, don’t take a chance, discard it!

Two ways NOT to defrost fish.

how not to defrost fish

We told you how to defrost fish, but now we are going to tell you how not to defrost frozen fish. These two methods may be tempting, but they are not worth the risk of illness and the loss of quality. Here are the two ways to not defrost fish:

  1. In the microwave: it may be tempting to put the frozen fish on a plate and use the defrost setting in your microwave, but this will start to cook the fish and make it mushy. You don’t want mushy fish!
  2. On the counter: you may think leaving fish out on the counter to defrost is a fast and easy way to get your fish defrosted, but this is not safe! Leaving the fish at room temperature will expose the fish to temperatures that allow pathogens to grow.

To sum up, please don’t defrost your fish on the counter or in the microwave. It’ll affect the quality and safety of the fish, plus it’s so fast and easy to defrost fish in cold water. Waiting 30 minutes for your fish to defrost is worth it, we promise!

Can I cook frozen fish?

Yes, you can technically cook frozen fish, but we generally don’t recommend it. If you are in a time-crunch, and need to cook frozen fish, here are tips on cooking fish that is still frozen:

  1. Cook lean fish such as cod or tilapia. Fish that have more fat in them like salmon or swordfish won’t cook as well, because the fat gets soggy when cooking from frozen.
  2. Cook thin fish using direct heat methods. Putting a thin piece of tilapia in a frying pan and cooking until it flakes will work much better than cooking a thick tuna steak!

What about shellfish? Do these instructions work for shellfish as well?

We wrote this article about how to defrost fish, but these instructions also work for frozen shellfish as well. Lobster tails and scallops may take a bit longer to defrost than a thin salmon steak, but using our instructions to thaw fish in a refrigerator or cold water will work for your favorite shellfish as well.

Stop by Lake Geneva Country Meats to pick up a wide variety of frozen seafood, then follow these instructions on how to defrost fish to get your seafood ready to cook! If you’re looking for recipe inspiration, you can visit our recipe archive to browse all of our delicious seafood recipes.

Have questions? Leave us a comment below, and we’ll do our best to help you out. For more food safety tips about seafood, we recommend visiting this page from, a collaboration between the CDC, FDA, and USDA. It’s packed full of useful tips!

Have a great day, we’ll see you soon at Lake Geneva Country Meats!

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