Our last blog post talked about how to identify and verify if the seafood you are purchasing is fresh. This blog will talk about the next logical step, STORING YOUR SEAFOOD.
So you’ve got your gorgeous fresh seafood home, and you can’t wait to get at it, but life has reared its ugly head and you can’t get to your seafood until tomorrow. What now? Is all lost? All that smelling, poking and prodding, questions and due diligence at the store is now for naught? Luckily, by following a few easy steps, you can ensure that your seafood maintains its freshness for a few days at a minimum.
One of the first things to consider is temperature. When purchasing fresh fish, you should aim to get it as close to the end of your shopping trip as possible, and get it home quickly. You can buy yourself some insurance in the form of a cooler and some cooler packs, but even still, you should avoid stopping off at your favourite restaurant for a meal while your fish sits in your car, especially in summer. Once home you just pop it in the fridge and it’s all going to be okay right? Not exactly. To maintain the utmost freshness, seafood should be stored at, or as close to 32°F as possible. The higher the temperature, the quicker the fish will spoil. Most home refrigerators are kept in the “medium to medium high” range, but what temperature is that? Do yourself a favour and go out and buy a fridge thermometer, available at all kitchen and restaurant supply stores. You may be surprised at what temperature your fridge actually is.
Ok. Fresh fish purchased, check. Got it home quickly in a cooler, check. Fridge is as close to 32°F as possible, check. Now what? If you have purchased (or caught) a whole fish, you’re going to want to dress it as soon as possible. Gut it and give the body cavity a good rinse with COLD water to ensure everything is clean. If the gills are still attached, remove them as they will start to decompose very quickly, which will affect the surrounding meat, as well as invite some unwelcome bacteria to the party. If scales are still attached, now is a good time to remove them as well.
If you want to be extra safe, I would recommend packing the fish in ice. Don’t just place the fish on top of some ice in a pan and assume that you’re all good. What you want to do is place a layer of crushed ice in the bottom of a self-draining pan, which is inserted into another pan to catch the runoff. Then place your fish on top, and pack another layer of crushed ice on top of that, then cover with plastic wrap to protect from any foreign objects, flavours or smells making their way in (or out!) during storage. Then place the pan into the back of the fridge where it is coldest and away from the constantly opening door. A setup like this will be more than sufficient to safely store your fish overnight. If planning on storing longer, you will need to replenish the ice, and remove any melt water from the pan approximately every 12 hours, which also gives you the chance to give a quick visual inspection / sniff test as well. If at any time things appear kind of… well… fishy, now is the time to either cook or freeze. It will not get any better as time goes on. Depending on the freshness of the fish, handling and temperature, you could get up to a week of safe storage with regular ice drains and changes. If unsure, it’s always best to stick to the standard 2 - 3 day shelf life.
Shellfish are slightly different, however the principles remain the same. You can read my previous post about freshness here. Mussels and clams should be rinsed in COLD water, and given a quick clean to rid any barnacles, dirt, or foreign objects. Also any dead or broken shells should be discarded at this point. Then give them a good dry with clean paper or kitchen towel, and place them in a clean container covered with plastic wrap. You will get a good 2 - 3 days at least out of them. Avoid the urge to store them in water, fresh or otherwise. Most commercially available shellfish have already been “purged”, or allowed to sit in water for a few days to get most of the internal dirt out before purchase. Ice can be placed on top as well, but make sure that there is a self-draining container with a catch for runoff water as well.
If you have purchased The Smoke Bloke’s smoked salmon, it will keep as is in its original packaging in the fridge for 5 days. IF you decide to freeze the product, go for it. I always recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap and / or placing in a sealable freezer bag. You will get up to 4 months out of it in the freezer. For extra ease of use, or sneaking out a few slices at a time, place a layer of parchment paper, waxed paper, or even plastic wrap between each slice, and you can pull a few at a time from the freezer without having to defrost the entire amount!
Follow these few easy rules, and you can safely store your purchase or catch and maintain maximum freshness for days. You are also going to want to consider handling and sanitation, but I’ll leave that for another post.