Smarter Storage: How to Safely Increase the Shelf Life of Fish


How to Increase the Shelf Life of Fish

At first read, “sustainable seafood” and “long-term storage” may seem like contradictory terms. However, considering the fact that fresh or thawed fish lasts for just two days in the refrigerator and cooked fish is good for up to three to four days, preparation techniques that allow for a longer shelf life can significantly help reduce seafood food waste.

The longer the shelf life of the fish, the less fish that go to waste, which means fewer fish we have to take out of the sea!

Enter freezing, canning, and curing—three centuries-old techniques for preserving fish. Read on for tips on how best to safely put them to use to enjoy your fish for weeks and months to come.

Freezing Fish: Freezing is the easiest and most common way to preserve fish. When frozen in an at-home refrigerator, a fatty fish like tuna or salmon will last two to three months. A leaner fish like cod will last up to six months. When vacuum-sealed and properly stored in the freezer, fish can last for as long as two years. If frozen fish is properly thawed, there should be little to no difference in texture when compared to fresh fish. Freeze your fish as soon as possible after purchasing, preserving it at its peak freshness to increase its shelf life.

Canning: Unlike freezing, canning or jarring enables you to store your fish safely without electricity for more than five years. This method preserves the shelf life of fish the longest. Canning involves soaking fresh fillets in brine, packing them into sterile quart jars and bringing the jars to a boil in a pressure canner. Canned fish has a different texture and flavor than fresh fish but are delicious in their own right.

Curing Fish: Curing preserves fish by either smoking or salting it. Smoked fish requires soaking it in brine then placing it in an enclosed space over a smoking fire source. Different woodsmoke, like cherry, apple or hickory add different flavors to the fish. Vacuum-packed, smoked fish will last for two to three weeks, or two to three months when frozen.

Salting fish involves rubbing your fish with a dry brine made of salt, sugar, and spices and storing it in a refrigerator for two to three days. The result is commonly known as gravlax, and properly refrigerated lasts for three to five days.

Read more in our Essential Guide to Sustainable Seafood series: