If you’re a foodie who loves eating fish, you probably have a few slices of raw or cooked fish in your freezer and wonder how long they last in the refrigerator after thawing. Well, I’m here to discuss everything with you.
Read on to learn more, and don’t forget to check out my many other educational guides on my site! And feel free to request specific topics you want to learn more about!
How Long Can Fish Be In The Fridge?
Now we come to the part where we discuss how long fish lasts in the fridge. Fresh fish doesn’t have a pin-pointed shelf life like processed foods do. So many variable factors can ultimately help or hinder the final shelf life.
That said, I wouldn’t keep fresh raw fish inside my refrigerator for longer than three days (maybe 4, but unlikely). And that’s if the fish was freshly caught as well! To be clear, freezing is the best way to store raw fish.
Fish is extremely perishable, and unlike many other raw ingredients, the consequences of eating even slightly off fish can be dire! So for that reason, I like to stick to the “rather be safe than sorry” mantra and stick with freezing fish.
If you have any suspicions that your fresh fish may have expired or is starting to go bad, you should discard it immediately. Check out my guide on How To Tell If Salmon Has Gone Bad and How To Tell If Shrimp Has Gone Bad. The same rules apply to virtually all types of fish and seafood.
How Long Can Thawed Fish Stay In The Fridge?
Now, there is a difference in the timeframe when storing fresh and thawed fish in the refrigerator. Fresh fish has a much better texture and, if stored properly, is much less susceptible to rapid bacterial growth.
Previously frozen, now thawed fish won’t last nearly as long. Personally, I only ever keep thawed fish in my fridge for 24 hours to keep the fish fresh. It can potentially last for 2 days but don’t leave it uncooked for longer.
During freezing, ice crystals break the bonds that help keep the flesh firm, juicy, and flavorful. When the fish starts thawing, the broken bonds cannot retain these qualities, causing the fish to become limp, less flavorful, and a lot less tender and juicy.
The longer you store thawed fish, the worse the meat will get. So again, for the best results, cook the thawed fish within 24 hours.
And just in case anyone is still doubting this: you cannot keep thawed fish inside the fridge for three days, and you cannot keep thawed fish inside the refrigerator for five days! The fish will be highly unsafe to eat and not even appealing!
How Long Does Frozen Fish Last In The Fridge?
Many people think this has the same meaning as “How long can thawed fish stay in the fridge?”
The difference is that frozen fish, especially whole fish, stored at fridge temperature takes a long time to thaw completely. The timeline given above (for thawed fish) is from when the fish is fully thawed.
When it comes to frozen fish in the fridge, the shelf life can add an extra day. So, if you store frozen fish inside the fridge (to start defrosting), it can last between 2-3 days. Again, it’s best to cook it within 24 hours after fully defrosting.
The Best Way To Thaw Fish
Now that you know exactly how long thawed fish can stay in the fridge, let’s take a look at the best practices for thawing fish.
This is very important because if you don’t follow these guidelines, the shelf life of the thawed fish will shorten immensely.
How To Thaw Fish
- Remove the fish from the freezer.
- Place it inside a baking dish or tray so that the juices don’t run all over the fridge.
- Set the tray at the bottom of the fridge and preferably towards the back. The bottom is colder than the top, and so is the back.
- Leave the fish to slowly thaw for a couple of hours. If there are excess juices in the wrapping or tray, drain it so the fish doesn’t sit in it for hours on end. This promotes bacterial growth which obviously shortens the shelf life.
- When the fish is completely thawed and ready to be used, prepare it as your recipe requires. You may need to wash off some juices that leeched out as the meat defrosted.
If it is at all possible, unwrap the fish and place it on top of some kitchen cloth or wipes. This will absorb the juices coming out of the meat as it thaws. Wrap the entire tray with plastic or saran wrap to prevent the meat from drying out as it thaws.
The only reason I didn’t mention this trick in the method above is that people rarely keep kitchen wipes on hand. Also, please don’t use wipes that have already been used with chemicals. Always use clean and unused wipes to prevent chemical contamination.
The benefit of thawing fish slowly in the fridge is that the meat retains its flavor, juiciness, and firm texture. Furthermore, it keeps the fish outside of the temperature danger zone, which compromises the cold chain completely.
How To Store Thawed Fish In The Fridge
If you are left with fully thawed fish before you are ready to use it, you should properly store it to prolong its shelf life.
First, use paper towel to dry off the outside of the fish to prevent bacteria from growing.
Next, line a deep baking dish or tray with kitchen wipes. These will absorb any juices still coming out of the fish fillets.
Place the fish on top of the kitchen wipes and cover it with some wipes too.
Then, proceed to wrap the entire tray with plastic or saran wrap. This keeps the thawed fish from drying out and losing its firm texture. Then place the fish inside an airtight container.
Again, only keep this fish in the fridge for a day, two at the most. Anything longer, and you seriously risk getting ill.
How To Tell If The Thawed Fish Is Bad
When storing fish, knowing what spoiled fish looks and smells like is essential to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria that causes food poisoning. Foodborne illness is common in seafood, including most fish.
With that said, throw away raw fish, thawed frozen cooked fish, and other food items that have mold, body slime, and an ammonia-like odor. You may notice discoloration due to freezer burn, but that’s totally fine as long as some parts remain bright red.