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, or until defrosted through
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 harmful bacteria.
Remove seafood from its vacuum-sealed packaging. Removing the bag for defrosting 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. Skipping this step can lead to mushy textures, fishy odors, and unwanted sliminess.
Place your seafood on a plate/tray lined with paper towels or a tea towel 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. Place this on a low shelf to ensure that any defrosting liquid doesn't spill and contaminate other items in the refrigerator.
Alternatively, 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 the 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.
If desired, allow portions of fish to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes after removing the portions from the refrigerator, as this will help the fish to cook more evenly, especially when planning to sear fillets. Enjoy your meal!
The “If You’re in a Hurry” Way to Thaw Your Seafood
Time needed: Less than an hour
Do not use this thawing method for cold-smoked products, ground sockeye.
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. Then, place it in a separate, resealable bag that can be sealed tightly.
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. Don't use warm water, 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 the resealable bag of seafood into the bowl of cool water, keeping it submerged with something weighty.
At the 20- or 30-minute mark, change out the water in the bowl, refilling with cool water, making sure that everything is still submerged.
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 promptly after thawing. Don’t use this method to defrost your seafood if dinner is still seven hours away.
Important 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.
In contrast, cold smoked Pacific halibut and cold smoked sablefish must be removed from their packaging before they are defrosted, then enjoyed 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.