Many of us grew up eating fish, and for many of us, this association was positive. As children, we would happily eat fish sticks, salmon dishes, and tilapia frequently. However, things change, and a lot of what we ate was poorly prepared and full of artificial flavourings. This, of course, resulted in many cases of food poisoning, which was only made worse by the fact that these flavourings and fillers were often times hidden from view. Since then, many of us have changed our tune on the subject of raw fish and haven’t touched it for years. Nevertheless, every now and then, someone will ask me when I recommend buying fresh fish, whether cooked or uncooked, if they should keep it refrigerated for a certain amount of time.
The short answer is: It depends. The longer answer involves a few different factors that could affect how long your fish will last in the fridge. Let’s take a look.
The Type Of Fish
When I recommend buying fresh fish, I usually mean fish that has been freshly caught and brought to the store. Throwing back to my childhood for a moment, fresh fish will stay fresh for roughly two to three days before going bad. The reason behind this is that once the food is defrosted, it starts losing its freshness.
On the other end of the spectrum, frozen fish will stay fresh for roughly three to six months before going bad. So, if you’re buying frozen fish, you’re going to have to eat it quickly, or store it in the freezer. These are, of course, the extremes, but generally, you’ll find that the fresher the fish, the longer it will stay good. Of course, the exact opposite is also true; the longer the fish has been stored, the fresher it will become when brought back to life.
The Length Of Refrigeration
There are two parts to this question, and they’re both quite important. First, how long you should store your fresh fish in the fridge, and second, how long you should defrost it before cooking.
If you’re storing your fish in the fridge to cook it later, you want to take into consideration how long it’s been frozen. As mentioned above, frozen fish will stay fresh for three to six months, so it’s always good to keep that in mind. However, what’s more important is how long it’s been frozen and how long it will take for you to prepare it. So, if you’ve kept your fish frozen for a while and it’s defrosting slowly, you might want to eat it sooner rather than later.
As for how long you should keep your fresh fish in the fridge, this really depends on a few different factors. If you’re eating it right away, you might not need to keep it in the fridge at all. However, if you’re planning on storing it for later, you should keep it in the fridge and, in most cases, eat it within three to four days. The reason behind this is that the longer your fish is stored, the shorter its freshness will be. So, if you’re going to be storing it for later, you might as well eat it sooner rather than later.
The Size Of The Fish
Like in most situations involving food, the bigger the better. Well, mostly. When it comes to fish, a bigger isn’t always better. Instead, it depends on the type of fish you have and how you intend on cooking it. For example, mackerel is very common in Europe but is relatively small and has a mild taste. For this reason, it tends to be used in fish sandwiches and similar recipes where its flavour is masked by other ingredients. This is also why many of us are better off avoiding large fish completely; the larger the fish, the more likely it is that you’ll overcook it due to the fact that it takes longer to cook larger fish.
Age Of The Fish
Fish ages quickly, which means it becomes less appetizing as it gets older. Fresh fish will stay good for two to three days before going bad, while older fish can become quite stinky and slimy. This is why when you’re buying fish, you should always check how old it is rather than just looking at the dates on the wrapping. The exception to this rule is when you’re purchasing very large fish. In this case, it doesn’t really matter how old it is, as long as it’s been caught recently.
What all of this means is that, in general, fish should be eaten within three to four days of being purchased. However, if you’re buying specific types of fish that have a longer shelf-life, then you should try and eat them within the recommended timelines regardless. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and, in this case, being safe means avoiding the potentially dangerous bacteria that tends to grow quickly in aged fish.
Temperature Of The Storage Space
Most fish are best kept at around room temperature; this way, they don’t deteriorate as quickly as when stored in the fridge. So, if you want to keep your fish long-term, you’ll need to put it in the fridge (32 degrees Fahrenheit or colder is the optimum) to slow down the spoiling process.
Whether Or Not The Fish Is Filleted Or Boned
This really depends on the type of fish you have. If you’re looking for white fish, such as the common soles and flounders that are often found on fishmonger’s slab, then it’s best not to have the bones. However, if you’re cooking more expensive species of fish, such as sea bass or cod, then you should definitely go for the option that has the bones removed. The reason behind this is that removing the bones makes the meat much easier to bite into and digest.
There are also plenty of cases where the bones add a lot of flavour to the dish; for instance, salmon fishing towns in Canada are famous for their fresh halibut, which is mostly made up of the fish’s bones. So, if you’re in doubt, then ask the fishmonger whether or not the fish is boned, and if it is, then remove the bones before cooking.
Marinades, Spices, And Other Techniques
Many of us are hesitant to use salt as a marinade for fish, as we fear the process will make the meat dry. However, there are cases where an acidic marinade is preferred and can add a lot of flavour to the final product. If you’re using a marinade, then make sure you’re using something that will stay attached to the meat while cooking. Otherwise, you’ll have to keep picking it off as the flesh seizes. Some other spices that are often used in conjunction with fish are ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. These spices can sometimes be found ground in whole spice shops or in small packages from coffee shops that specialize in making espresso with spices in it. If you’re using any of these spices, then make sure you’re using them in tandem rather than in isolation; this way, you’ll get the full effect of the spices rather than just a flavour here and there.
Even the smallest portions of fish are usually enough to satisfy an adult. This means that one can usually go for a smaller plate rather than a larger one; the reason behind this is that the larger the serving size, the greater the likelihood that someone will leave some food on their plate. In most cases, this is an unwanted addition that will likely make the eater regret having eaten the entire piece. So, if you’re serving fish, make sure you’re serving the right portion size.
Type Of Plating
Many of us are hesitant to use anything other than paper plates when eating fish, as we find that plastic ones tend to melt when heated. While this is true, the type of plate you use can also affect the way your fish tastes. For instance, wooden plates tend to add a certain tone to the dish that plastic ones tend to take away. So, if you want to keep the true flavour of the fish, then use wooden plates. Otherwise, most people use plastic ones nowadays for simplicity’s sake.
Finally, we come to the most important part of this entire article: Quality control. Just as we saw earlier, the bigger the fish, the more prone it is to being overcooked. So, if you’re shopping for fish, then look for signs of age, and make sure the fish you buy is of a high quality. Otherwise, you’ll simply be replacing one bad meal with another; this, in turn, can result in even more food poisoning incidents.