Salmon is a versatile fish and a staple here in Alaska. Such a delicious and healthy food! But how long can you freeze salmon until you’re ready to prepare it? Read on for the answer and more tips and tricks for storing your freshly caught wild salmon!
Living in Alaska, we fish every year for fresh sockeye salmon. But the most important task comes when we get back home. We want to be able to enjoy the salmon throughout the long winter months so we must carefully process and store it.
Salmon, whether you catch it yourself or purchase it from a reputable, local fisherman, is best when you can enjoy it fresh. We love to grill salmon fillets as soon as they’re brought home. But we can’t eat them all at once!
We like to smoke and pressure can about half of our catch. This is a great way to preserve salmon for many months. Some of our favorite ways to enjoy smoked salmon include salmon dip, salmon cakes, and chowder.
The rest we freeze to use in our other favorite recipes for the next few months. Once we thaw it, we can bake it, grill it, or even pressure can more of it. Although freshly caught salmon is by far the best, having the rest of our catch to enjoy during the winter allows us to eat heathy and hearty meals in the cold.
Freezing salmon is a great way to preserve it for later but how long can you freeze salmon? It’s important that it is done correctly to ensure quality and safety. Here are some simple tips for freezing and thawing salmon.
How to Properly Freeze Salmon
How long salmon will stay fresh and safe in the freezer has a lot to do with proper handling and storage. Here’s how you should properly freeze salmon:
- Clean Salmon– Start with clean hands and then make sure that the fresh salmon is clean. Rinse under cold water if needed and gently pat dry with clean paper towels. When you’re out in the wild filleting the raw salmon you’ve just caught, it can get specks of dirt on it if it’s a windy day!
- Portion– Divide the fresh fish into the portion sizes that you will eat. Cut up the whole salmon into smaller, individual fillets as needed.
- Package Tightly– Wrap the salmon tightly in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper, an airtight container, or a freezer-safe bag. The best way, however, is to use a vacuum sealer. These keep air completely out of the package and your salmon will stay fresher longer.
- Label- Always label the package of salmon with the date so you know exactly when you froze it because you might forget.
- Check Freezer Temperature– Make sure your freezer is set to 0 degrees F or lower. Keep a separate thermometer in your home freezer so you always know the exact temperature.
Follow the same steps for freezing cooked or leftover salmon. Make sure that it has cooled completely before packaging and placing in the freezer. Salmon freezes well and will maintain its color and flavor as long as it is handled properly at every step!
How Long Can You Freeze Salmon?
After following the steps for proper storage, how long can you freeze salmon?
- Properly frozen fresh salmon can be frozen for up to 6 months– If the salmon has been handled correctly, packaged properly, and frozen at the right temperature then it is safe to eat for up to 6 months. However, it is best to consume within 3 months for the best quality and freshness.
- Properly frozen cooked salmon can be frozen up to 3 months-If the cooked salmon was cooled completely, packaged properly, and frozen at the right temperature then it is safe to eat for up to 3 months.
Of course, the storage times are just general guidelines. The quality of salmon will go down the longer it sits in the freezer and if improper storage techniques were used.
When dealing with raw fish, safety is important. Inspect your packages of frozen salmon carefully before consuming and if unsure, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and discard.
How to Thaw Frozen Salmon
For best results, thaw frozen salmon in the refrigerator. Remove the package from the freezer and place salmon on a plate or in a bowl. This will catch any drippings as it begins to thaw. This will take several hours or overnight but the quality of the salmon will be much better.
If you’re short on time, thaw the salmon in a bowl of cold water. Keep the package sealed. Change the water as needed, about every 20 to 30 minutes, to keep it cold. This method takes anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes depending on the size of the fillet.
As a last resort, thaw a piece of salmon in the microwave. Follow the instructions for your particular model if it has a defrost setting. Only use this method if you’re really in a hurry because it won’t produce the best results.
Some recipes call for frozen salmon, allowing you to skip the step of thawing and save time!
Do not thaw at room temperature. This is a basic rule for thawing any type of meat or fish.
Use thawed salmon immediately for freshness and safety. Keep in the coldest part of the fridge until ready to cook.
Don’t refreeze salmon a second time once you thaw it. If your plans change and you can’t eat it, cook it, let it cool, then refreeze it for another time so it doesn’t go to waste.
Watch for these signs of spoilage and immediately discard the salmon for safety:
- Freezer burn or ice crystals
- Discoloration or dull color
- Off odor
- Expired storage time
- Strange texture of the fish
These tips will help you enjoy your delicious salmon when you’re ready! Prepare thawed salmon in your favorite recipe whether you bake, broil, or grill it. Having a healthy and hearty salmon meal during the cold winter months is a treat and having a freezer full of it is even better!