Freezer burns in fish (and other foods) are a result of dehydration from air exposure where ice in the fish turns into water vapor instead of first melting and then evaporating. This affects its original flavor, texture, and appearance. However, freezer-burned fish is usually safe to eat so long as it has not reached its expiry date.
You may not be able to fix fully a freezer-burned fish, but, you can use a cooking method that can re-hydrate it back and add herbs and spices to improve the flavor.
Signs of freezer burn in fish
The most noticeable signs of Freezer burns in fish are discoloration usually grayish spots and excessive ice buildup on the surface. When you cook a freezer-burned fish you will notice a change in flavor (it may become tasteless or absorb the flavor of any food stored next to it if it had a strong aroma) and texture (it becomes dry and chewy).
Other than overexposure to dry air, freezer burn can also be a result of temperature flactuation. Each time you open the freezer door, hot air gets in the freezer causing temperature fluctuation to foods near the door hence causing freezer burns. It’s therefore advisable to minimise opening your freezer door to maintain the temperatures constant.
Is it safe to eat freezer-burned fish?
You can safely eat freezer-burned fish so long as it has not reached its expiry date. Normally, freezer burns affect the quality of your fish in terms of flavor, texture, and color and not its shelf life nor safety.
So the next time you find any signs to suggests that your fish could be freezer burned, just trim off the affected areas and make delicious fish curry and serve with rice on the side.
How to fix freezer-burned fish
If I tell you that you can bring back the original taste of a freezer-burned fish I will be lying to you since the water that contains much of its flavor evaporates during the process. However, you can fix the situation using a recipe that can possibly re-hydrate your fish and help it soak in flavors from herbs and spices of your desire to get rid of the freezer burn taste.
To fix a freezer-burned fish, simply trim off the affected area and cook it in a curry sauce well seasoned with herbs like celery (preferably fresh as they have strong flavor) and spices.
If the fish is heavily freezer-burned such that the burn run way deep even after trimming, discard it since there is no much you can do to save its quality at that point.
How to cook freezer-burned fish
Since freezer-burned fish is still palatable, there are different ways to prepare and enjoy your fish. Below are some
- Fish chowder is a perfect meal that masks the freezer burn taste. The dish uses dried herbs and tomatoes and can be eaten independently or with rice dishes
- Fish curry has intense spices that add much flavor to the fish. It is a perfect dish when it comes to hiding freezer burn taste in your fish
- Baked fish is another excellent option. You can start by marinating your fish with some lemon juice, salt, and dry mixed herbs like rosemary. After marinating, place your fish fillets in egg wash, then crumb coat with bread crumbs. Bake your fish and enjoy
How to Prevent Freezer Burn in Fish
It is possible to prevent your fish from freezer burn by fixing a few things that we tend to ignore when storing fish in the freezer.
1. Vacuum seal
Once you put your fish in a zip lock bag, use a vacuum seal to suck out as much air as possible before sealing to retain the best quality for long. You can also use a straw to suck out air manually in the absence of a vacuum seal.
2. Keep the temperatures at 0°F
When the freezer is at its lowest temperature, your fish will freeze faster hence preventing the risk of formation of large ice crystals on its surface and therefore retaining its quality better.
It’s always advisable to use your frozen fish a month before its expiry, for quality purposes. Therefore ensure that you label the expiry date on the package to avoid over freezing.
4. Glaze with water
Glazing is simply dipping your fish in water and then freezing to form a protective layer of ice that prevents the fish from coming into contact with air while in the freezer. The layer also helps to protect the fish from temperature fluctuation hence maintaining its quality whenever the door is opened.
5. Repackage store-bought fish
Once you bring your fish home from the store, remove it from the original packaging it came with and package it afresh. Repackaging saves the quality of your fish in case the original packaging had invisible tears which can allow air in and cause freezer burns. Also, you want to package it keenly (wrap each piece separately) especially if you intend to freeze it for longer.
6. Store where its coldest
If you are using any other freezing method apart from the glazing, store your fish at the back of the fridge where temperatures remain constant even when the door is opened.