If you’re someone like me who buys groceries in advance and toss them in the freezer for weeks on end, freezer burn shouldn’t be a new concept to you. For those who don’t know, freezer burn results from dehydration from air exposure as ice becomes water vapor instead of melting and evaporating.
The other reason behind freezer burn could be temperature fluctuation. When you open the freezer door, hot air gets in, and cool air gets out. So, if you often find yourself standing with the freezer door ajar and shuffling through half-opened bags of corn and whatnot, please stop.
Anyway, while almost all kinds of food get freezer burn, it’s more impactful and noticeable in delicate food like fish.
So, can you eat freezer-burned fish? Matter of fact, can you even salvage it in the first place? Keep reading to know!
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Can You Eat Freezer-Burned Fish?
Yes, you can safely eat freezer-burned fish. The smart choice here would be to discard the affected parts and cook the fish with strong spices, herbs, and aromatics to mask the burnt flavor and texture changes.
Here’s a quick look at what fellow cooks on Reddit have to say about eating freezer-burned fish.
I collected all kinds of answers and put together this section so you could find out the consensus on whether you can eat freezer-burned fish.
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Can You Eat Freezer-Burned Fish? Here’s What Redditors Think!
“Freezer-burned anything is not optimal per se. If you cut away the dried parts meticulously and discard them, you’ll end up with low-quality but edible protein. You can make high-spice fish stew recipes.”
“No matter how you cook it, the fish will still taste of freezer and the texture/appearance will be off. If you’re gonna make a stew, make sure it’s strongly flavored to mask the freezer taste.”
“I’d do fish heavy seafood gumbo. The flavor profile should likely be strong enough to cover freezer burned taste.”
“Trim and use the worst-looking bits to make a stock. Turn the rest into a seafood chowder.”
I guess you’re good to go. At least, that’s what Redditors think.
This article will entail everything you should know about the freezer burn on fish – why it happens in the first place, how to prevent it, and how to salvage freezer-burned fish.
Keep reading to find out!
What Exactly Is Freezer Burn? Why Does It Happen?
Freezer burn is a result of moisture loss. This can happen to any kind of food that’s been frozen for a long time. Freezer-burned food is covered completely in ice and starts to look grainy and textured. It might also get discolored.
Freezer burn can happen to any food stored in the freezer, including meat, poultry, vegetables, and fish.
All food contains water. And in the freezer, the water forms thousands of ice crystals when frozen. These crystals then migrate to the surface of whatever food it is and eventually to the coldest section of your freezer. This process is known as sublimation.
Sublimation is quite similar to evaporation, although it doesn’t involve liquid. What happens is the substance changes directly from solid to gas. Confused? This is why ice cubes become smaller over time when you don’t use them.
The loss of water molecules leads to dehydration, making the frozen food shriveled and dry. On top of that, loss of water enables oxygen to manipulate flavor and color, especially in items as delicate as fish.
Is It Safe To Eat Fish With Freezer Burn?
Essentially, freezer burn is moisture loss. Don’t worry – it has nothing to do with pathogens and thus food safety – it’s just that the food quality has deteriorated. Freezer burn robs food of texture and nutritional value.
In most cases, the fish will look unappetizing and develop an unpleasant texture and an off-flavor, but it’ll still be safe to eat.
If the freezer’s temperature is set to 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C), bacteria and other deadly viruses cannot grow. So, as long as the fish was fresh before you tossed it in the freezer, it’s safe to eat.
But still, like other techniques of food preservation, which include pickling, dehydrating, and canning, freezing food also compromises the food quality.
Although you can trim off the affected parts and use the rest, the quality will not be on par with a fresh counterpart.
While the USDA suggests cutting off the affected portions, you might have to totally chalk it up to a complete loss based on how badly the fish is freezer-burnt.
Foods with higher water content, like fish, are more impacted than foods with low water content.
What Does Freezer-Burned Fish Look Like?
It’s quite easy to recognize freezer burn on fish. The meat will develop dark brown or grayish leathery patches. And when cooked, the texture will be dry and tough.
So, here are a few signs that your fish has freezer burn:
- Discolored flesh
- Gray or brown spots
- Flavor changes
- Texture changes
The off flavor will not be on par with the flavor of the fresh meat, although edible. The taste may range from tasteless to tasting like other food in the freezer.
As far as the texture is concerned, fish that have endured freezer burn will be dry and chewy. Well, this is to be expected since moisture escapes the fish.
When To Use Food With Freezer Burn?
If your food has only mild freezer burn and you intend to cook it thoroughly, you’re good to go. First, defrost it properly before cutting off the sections with severe burns. Then, depending on how you cook it, you might be able to save the dish entirely.
When To Toss Food With Freezer Burn?
As discussed above, freezer burn doesn’t necessarily make the food unhealthy and unsafe. But depending on the severity, it can severely affect the color, texture, and taste.
If a good chunk of the fish has been burned, you might need to toss it in the bin. If the food has an off smell after defrosting, you must discard it. Sometimes, you just can’t rescue it.
How To Remove Freezer Burn Taste From Fish?
Cooking freezer-burned fish requires more elbow grease than your regular fish since you must work on masking the burned taste. Also, make sure you don’t use the fish alone as a standalone ingredient.
Here are a couple of things you can do to enhance the fish’s taste:
Marinate the fish for a couple of years using lemon, aromatic herbs, and spices.
Create Indian-style fish curry. The strong spices like turmeric and cumin used in the dish will effectively mask the off-flavor of the burned fish.
Make chowder with the freezer-burned fish. The changed texture can be easily overlooked in this rich and creamy dish.
How To Avoid Freezer Burn When Freezing Fish?
Using freezer-safe containers and submerging the fish completely in water are two popular ways to prevent freezer burn.
Using Freezer-Safe Containers
Not all food storage containers are made the same. So, you need to pay attention to the kind of containers you use. Freezer-safe containers are made of thick plastic or glass.
So, although it’s tempting to reuse grocery store packaging to freeze the fish, they simply aren’t up to the task. The air will eventually get in as they are way too thin to protect the fish against the cold.
Unfortunately, the same is true for regular plastic bags. Make sure you only use bags, containers, and jars labeled for freezer use. While they cost a pretty penny, you’ll save money in the long run by not having to throw out freezer-burned food.
Freezing Fish In Water
A number of people on cooking forums recommended freezing the fish in water entirely to avoid freezer burn. How it works is that when the fish is completely submerged in water, the risk of fish getting in contact with air is eliminated.
While some people swear by this method, it’s important to know that the water takes away some of the flavors of the fish.
Here’s how you can freeze fish in 3 quick steps:
- Clean the fish filets.
- Fill a Ziploc bag with water.
- Place the filet into the Ziploc bag and make sure it’s fully submerged.
- Label the bag with the date.
Final Words: Can You Eat Freezer-Burned Fish?
To cut a long story short, you can eat freezer-burned fish if you don’t mind the taste. The texture and flavor might be compromised, but no bacterial growth will occur due to freezing temperature.
USDA recommends cutting off the burned part and cooking the rest. You will have to pull a few tricks, like marinating or cooking with strong spices and other ingredients to mask the burnt flavor.
But sometimes, the freezer burn is so severe that you just can’t save the fish!