Thawing your wild Alaskan seafood the right way is an essential kitchen skill that ensures you’ll be making the most of your high-quality, practically fresh off the boat catch. Whether you have the foresight to move your wild Alaskan seafood from the freezer to the fridge for an overnight thaw or are in a last-minute pinch, we’ve got you covered here with our guide to defrosting fish, spot prawns and scallops.
Here’s how we recommend thawing your seafood so that it’s ready to go when you want it:
The Standard Way to Thaw Your Seafood
Time needed: 10-12 hours
The easiest way to defrost your seafood also happens to be the optimal way to thaw whatever is on the menu, since a slow defrost best preserves seafood’s integrity. It’s also the safest way to thaw frozen products, since your seafood will be defrosting in controlled, cool temperatures that inhibit the growth of bacteria.
The first step is key, so don’t skip it! The day before you plan on cooking your seafood — perhaps the night before — remove it from its vacuum-sealed packaging, or simply snip an opening into the bag to introduce airflow. Removing or puncturing the bag also allows any excess liquid to drain away from the surface of the seafood, rather than keeping it trapped against the flesh, so it will be easier to pat dry once you’re ready to cook it.
Important note: This step ensures that your seafood maintains its high-quality freshness. Skipping this step, on the other hand, can lead to mushy textures, fishy odors, and unwanted sliminess. Our vacuum-sealed packaging preserves and protects your seafood while it’s in a frozen state, but thawed/fresh seafood keeps better when it is stored in a manner that allows air to circulate around it. Allowing some air circulation around your seafood or at least into the bag during a defrost will actually prevent this reduction in quality.
The next step is to place your unpackaged or punctured bag of seafood on a plate/tray lined with paper towels that will fit on a low shelf in your refrigerator, arranging them in a single layer if possible. The paper towels will absorb the liquid melting off the seafood.
Bonus step: If you want to be a defrosting superstar, instead of on paper towels, place your seafood on a rack or some other manner of elevation (a small overturned bowl works well too), arranging this over your plate/tray so that the liquid drains down rather than pooling under your seafood.
Once your seafood is thawed — this will usually take 10-12 hours — pat it dry before cooking. We recommend cooking your seafood within a day or two of being defrosted. Enjoy your meal!
The “If You’re in a Hurry” Way to Thaw Your Seafood
Time needed: Less than an hour
For those of you who tend not to plan too far ahead in regards to your meal, for days when you have an unexpected mouth to feed, or for the times that you totally spaced on moving your frozen seafood to the refrigerator, you can orchestrate a safe and quick thaw that can have you cooking in under an hour — even as little as half an hour, depending on the thickness of what you’re defrosting.
The first step is the same: Remove your seafood from its vacuum-sealed packaging, or simply puncture the bag to introduce airflow.
Next, fill a bowl with cool water. The bowl should be large enough to hold all of the seafood you’ll be defrosting, and the water should be cool to the touch. Warm water is a no-no, as it could potentially affect the texture of your seafood — you don’t want to accidentally poach the exterior of your meal — but more importantly warm water could potentially be creating an ecosystem where bacteria can thrive.
Put your seafood into the bowl of cool water, keeping it submerged with something weighty — another bowl, a bottle of wine that you’re serving with your meal, whatever you have that you don’t mind getting wet in order to keep the seafood underwater.
At the 20- or 30-minute mark, go ahead and change out the water in the bowl, as the ice-cold seafood has probably made the water colder than it needs to be, the way that ice cubes chill a glass of water. Refill the bowl with cool water, making sure that everything is still submerged before you walk away.
Once your seafood is thawed, take special care to pat it dry before cooking, as it will have picked up some excess water in the process of this quick thaw. Now get cooking!
Keep in mind, for food safety’s sake, you’ll only want to do a quick thaw if you’re planning on cooking your seafood right away — meaning, don’t use this method to defrost your seafood if dinner is still seven hours away. Wait until you’re about an hour out from your meal, then use the quick thaw method to prep your fish.
Special Thawing Considerations
Cold-smoked sockeye salmon should not be removed from its vacuum-sealed package. Just move it to the refrigerator to thaw, and open it within 30 days of defrosting. Once the package is opened, make sure to enjoy your smoked salmon within 5 days.
As for your weathervane scallops, you can completely thaw them all at once or split up your package so that part of it can be refrozen. To do this, simply follow the standard steps for thawing your seafood until the block of scallops is defrosted enough to break apart; this will take several hours. Return part of this block of scallops to the freezer, storing them in a freezer-safe bag. Don’t worry: Scallops freeze well. Continue thawing the remaining scallops you wish to eat now.
If you really don’t have time to thaw your seafood and you happen to have a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, there are recipes out there that have you add frozen seafood straight into the pot without having to wait for it to defrost. Check out a few wild salmon Instapot recipes we’ve picked out for you that will be ready in under 20 minutes, no thawing necessary.