How to Cook Frozen Fish

Three Methods:Cooking Frozen Fish without ThawingMethods of Thawing FishFish Recipes

When frozen correctly, fish will retain a high quality flavor and texture, and is considered equal to fresh fish by many chefs.[1] You can even cook frozen fish without thawing, although special techniques are recommended for grilling or pan-searing. Try it out, and if you don't like it, there are plenty of ways to defrost frozen fish without affecting safety or quality.

Method 1
Cooking Frozen Fish without Thawing

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    Rinse the fish in cold water. Rinse the frozen fish in cold water to remove ice crystals from the surface. Avoid warm water, since this can promote bacterial growth and waterlog your fish.[2]
    • Always wash your hands in warm, soapy water before handling raw fish.
    • If the fish has not been gutted, use the thawing method below instead, then remove the inedible portions.
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    Dry the fish. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. This will remove additional ice crystals, as well as the moisture clinging to the fish scales.
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    Use special techniques for thick fish or high-heat cooking. Thick slabs of frozen fish will take a long time to cook, but you can reduce this by wrapping them in foil or parchment pouches. The ice crystals in the fish will turn to steam, remain trapped in the packet, and help cook the fish more quickly. Increasing the cooking speed is especially important for high-heat cooking methods, as described below:
    • Grill fish in tightly closed foil packets, to prevent the outside charring while the inside cooks.
    • If pan-searing the fish, do not wrap the fish. Instead, cover the pan once the fish begins releasing juices, to trap steam that helps cook the fish evenly.
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    Season the fish partway through cooking. Cooking the fish for a couple minutes will melt some of the ice on the exterior. This makes it easier to rub oil, butter, or marinade into the fish, and to get spices to stick.[3] If you are breading the fish, you can place them fully frozen in a pan and cover with a thick layer of bread crumbs and spices.[4]
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    Cook for twice as long as you would fresh fish. You can cook frozen fish however you would normally cook fish, or look in the recipes section for ideas. Frozen fish can take twice as long to cook as fresh fish, but you're still saving time by skipping the thawing stage. This is only a general time estimate, and the actual amount of time required varies base on the thickness of the fish. Check on the fish every couple minutes, using the following tips to tell when its done:
    • Cut a slit with a sharp knife. When done, the fish will be completely opaque near the surface, and just starting to become opaque in the center.[5]
    • If you have a food thermometer, cook the fish to an internal temperature of 145ºF (62.8ºC).[6]

Method 2
Methods of Thawing Fish

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    Thaw for eight hours in the refrigerator. The colder the thawing temperature, the less likely that harmful bacteria populations will grow on your fish. Thawing overnight is the recommended method whenever you have the time.[7] Keep your fridge below 46ºF (8ºC) to keep your fish safe, and cook with 48 hours.[8]
    • Frozen foods will produce water as the ice melts, so keep your fish in a container that can catch water. To avoid waterlogging your fish, you could punch holes in the base of that container, and place it above a second container that will catch the draining water.
    • While most fish will thaw within 8 hours, massive amounts of fish could take up to 24 hours.
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    Thaw under cold water. If you don't want to wait for hours to thaw your fish, seal it inside a zip locked bag and submerge it in cold water.[9] This method usually takes 1–2 hours per pound (0.45 kg) of fish, and is the fastest method that still retains quality.[10]
    • Never use water at room temperature or warmer, as this encourages the growth of bacteria..
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    Defrost in a microwave. This method is not recommended for most circumstances, since the uneven cooking will usually make part of the fish rubbery before the rest of it is defrosted. It is typically much faster than the other methods, however, taking about 3–6 minutes per pound (0.45 kg) with most microwaves. Check on the fish halfway through, and flip each piece over.[11]
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    Cook as usual. Once the fish is pliable, meaning it is no longer stiff, it is fully thawed. Cook it as you would a fresh fish, or take a look at the recipes section for ideas.
    • Note that the fish will still be cold once thawed.

Method 3
Fish Recipes

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    Learn basic fish-cooking techniques. If you're not used to cooking fish at home, or you want to try out a new method, review the basic instructions so you know what temperature and cooking times are necessary. Fish is often grilled, baked, poached, or sautéed.
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    Get ideas for your specific type of fish. Different types of fish have different flavors and textures, so recipes often specify an exact type. Learn about cooking halibut, snapper, grouper, flounder, tilapia, or salmon.
    • Remember that cooking frozen fish without thawing will typically take twice as long as the recipe calls for.
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    Try new marinades and seasoning. Unlike red meat, most fish picks up on flavoring after only 5–15 minutes of marination. This makes it easy to season and flavor even if cooking it from frozen. Make sweet and sour fillets, fish in cheese sauce, Cajun style blackened fish, or Mexican style fish for tacos.
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    Learn unique recipes. Some recipes call for less typical methods of preparing fish. These don't have to be difficult with the right instructions, and usually just involve cooking the fish along with other ingredients. Try cooking chowder, fish quiche, battered fish & chips, or kedgeree.


  • If using an oven, grill, or electric stovetop, preheat it to save even more time.


  • Overcooking is a common with fish recipes, and can result in dry, unappealing flesh. If the flesh is opaque all the way through, remove it from heat immediately.
  • Store leftover cooked fish in clean, closed containers in the freezer or refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking (1 hour in hot weather).[12]

Article Info

Categories: Fish and Seafood