Best Tips for Properly Thawing Seafood

Before you dive into preparing your delicious seafood recipe, proper care is vital to ensure you and your dinner guests' safety. Whether you purchase your fish and shellfish from your local seafood market or use the convenience of a seafood delivery service, it's essential to correctly handle your frozen seafood. How to thaw frozen seafood properly is a question we receive quite often, so we've put together an ultimate thawing guide to provide tips and variations for frozen seafood thawing. We'll cover:

  • The importance of thawing frozen seafood properly
  • Refrigerator thawing
  • Cold water thawing
  • The safety of microwave thawing
  • Cooking seafood without thawing


Why Thawing Frozen Seafood Properly is Crucial

If you purchase your fish and shellfish from your local seafood market, you may be taking home frozen or partially frozen seafood. If you choose to order from a specialty seafood market online, your seafood delivery will arrive securely packaged and completely frozen for optimal freshness. Many buyers don't realize the critical need for attention to your seafood before you begin preparing your dish.  

Fish and shellfish, along with meats and poultry, begin their thawing process when they reach forty degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperature rises, any bacteria present before the freezing process can now begin to multiply. This is why reputable seafood delivery services ensure the proper freezing and packaging of your orders. If you are not cooking your seafood soon, store your fish and shellfish in the freezer. Suppose you do plan to prepare your meal immediately upon seafood delivery or purchasing from the seafood market. In that case, there are several options to choose from to defrost your frozen seafood safely.

Let's start with methods you should avoid at all costs:

  • Never thaw food in hot water. You risk bacteria multiplying on the areas that fall below the forty-degree mark as the inner portions of your frozen seafood continue to defrost. This method can also ruin the texture of your fish and shellfish.
  • Do not leave your frozen seafood out on the counter to thaw. Even the slightest leak from a seemingly well-sealed package can contaminate the surface.
  • Never leave thawed seafood out at room temperature for longer than two hours.


Thawing Frozen Seafood Using Safe Methods

It's always wise to plan your seafood meals to ensure you have plenty of time to thaw. If you're venturing out to your local seafood market, try to do so on the day of your fish or shellfish meal. If you decide to order through an online specialty seafood market, plan by allowing time for your seafood delivery, making plans to cook within twenty-four-hours of delivery, or placing your seafood in your freezer after unpacking. Always keep the fish in its original sealed seafood delivery packaging for optimal freshness. You'll yield the freshest taste and preserve its texture. You spend too much money on your fish and shellfish to let them spoil.

Practicing safe and effective thawing methods will keep your seafood tasty and your guests free from possible illness. Once you've made your selections at your favorite seafood market and your seafood delivery arrives, choose one of the following best practices:


Thawing Seafood by Refrigerator

  • A helpful hint if you are running short on preparation time: when thawing by a refrigerator, be aware of your fridge temperature. Keep in mind that food takes longer to thaw if your fridge is set at 35 °F than one that may be set at 40 °F, so plan accordingly.
  • Place your seafood in a shallow dish, bowl, or plate to keep any possible leakage from contaminating foods or shelving in your refrigerator.
  • Once your frozen seafood thaws in the fridge, it is safe to store for one to two days. We recommend cooking it within the first twenty-four hours for optimal flavor.
  • Food thawed in the refrigerator can be re-frozen without cooking, although there may be some quality loss.


Cold Water Seafood Thawing

  • This method is handy if your seafood has not thawed entirely or you need a quicker method. While it's faster than the refrigerator, you DO need to attend to your frozen seafood while thawing it with cold water.
  • Ensure your fish or shellfish is in a leak-proof package or zip-lock bag. A leak in the bag may result in bacteria from the environment coming into contact with the seafood. You also run the risk of water absorption affecting the flavor of your seafood. Online seafood markets are diligent about sealing their seafood, but it's wise to double-check all packaging, regardless of where you purchase your fish.
  • Place the bag in a large bowl and submerge it in cold tap water. You'll notice your water temperature rise with your frozen seafood, so change the water approximately every thirty minutes, so it continues to thaw evenly.
  • Depending on the amount of frozen seafood you are thawing, this method may take up to an hour for smaller portions to thaw completely.
  • Three to four pounds of seafood may take up to two to three hours to thaw completely. We suggest setting a timer for your thirty-minute water changes.
  • If, for any reason, you need to re-freeze your seafood after beginning the water thawing process, cook your seafood\first.


Can I Thaw Seafood by Microwave?

Thawing frozen seafood in the microwave is not one of our top recommendations for a few reasons. The thickness of your fish or shellfish is not always even, causing the outer portions to defrost and cook faster than the inner portions. Microwaves can also cause sporadic heating, resulting in hot spots, uneven thawing, and texture changes. If you choose this method, please follow these best practices carefully and keep an eye on your seafood throughout the process:

  • Place your seafood on a plate or bowl and place it on a microwave-safe rack. According to the thickness and size of your fish, defrost at half the recommended time, flip over, and defrost for the remaining time.
  • Cook seafood immediately after thawing to avoid the spread of bacteria.
  • If you thaw by microwave, then decide to pause your meal plans, the fish or shellfish must be cooked before re-freezing.


Can I Cook Seafood Without Thawing?

We are huge seafood lovers and can understand the anticipation of awaiting your seafood delivery. Diving in is exactly what we want to do too.  While cooking without thawing is a safe enough method, keep a few factors in mind. If your seafood is from your local seafood market, it may cook unevenly if portions of the fish have already begun to thaw. If you order from an online seafood market, your seafood packaging ensures it remains properly frozen until you receive your seafood delivery. Cooking times may take at least fifty percent longer, so be mindful of the extra time you can spend in the kitchen if you plan to start your dish upon the arrival of your seafood delivery.


You're ready to select your favorite seafood items and prepare a delicious feast!