We often receive questions about the best way to store seafood. Proper food handling is extremely important for guaranteeing quality and safety and is paramount for seafood because it’s often more perishable than other foods. Spoilage can happen quickly. Enzymes within seafood flesh kick start the decaying process, which is further helped by naturally occurring microorganisms. Knowing the best ways to safely store seafood can help to make it last longer, taste its best, and limit any risk of illness!
Ideally, fresh fish and shellfish should be kept between 1.5 to 2˚C. For fresh seafood, make sure you never go under 0˚C or over 4˚C! Check your fridge temperature. You might need to consider turning your fridge temperature down to maximize seafood freshness, but make sure it’s not too cold for other fresh products such as fruits and vegetables. The lucky folks among us will have a separate compartment with a colder setting, but regardless, the following information will let you know how long your catch will last and the best ways to store it:
Fresh and Frozen Fish
Most sources such as Health Canada recommend that you consume fresh fish within two days of purchase. However, this time varies depending on how fresh the fish really is. Fish could last for up to four or more days after purchase. When purchasing with from your local fishmonger, the best way to be sure is to just ask what they recommend! A good fishmonger will know when your fish was harvested and how long it’ll last under ideal conditions. Alternatively, when purchasing from grocery stores there is often a best before the date that should be followed.
If you can’t consume your fresh fish in time, freezing is a great option to prolong freshness. Your fish should be packaged so that there is little to no air left ꟷ vacuum packing works wonders ꟷ but if you don’t have one, squeezing as much air out as possible will do the trick. Another option is to fill a container with cold seawater or salted water and place the portions of fish in there to freeze. Take note that fish fattier fish like salmon and mackerel can’t be stored as long as those with little fat such as cod or hake. As a rule of thumb, fattier fish can remain in the freezer for up to 3 months, while low-fat fish can be stored for up to 6 months.
Fresh and Frozen Shellfish
Fresh live shellfish should be stored in the refrigerator in a bowl with a damp cloth or paper towel over top. Any live product should never be stored while submerged in water or sealed in air-tight containers or bags because they’ll soon perish from lack of oxygen! Also, be sure to empty any water that accumulates at the bottom of the bowl ꟷ this is particularly common in mussels as they release a lot of water.
The freshness and quality of your shellfish will depend on how long it can be stored in the fridge. Health Canada suggests that all shellfish be consumed within three days, however, when bought fresh and local from fishmongers like us, we can recommend up to a week for mussels and clams, and up to three weeks for oysters! For fresh scallops and shrimp, we suggest no more than two days.
Whether you have leftovers or just want to save some of your shellfish for later, we recommend you cook your shellfish, or you can remove the meat and store in a freezer bag or container submerged in a brine solution or the cooled liquid that it was cooked in. For oysters specifically, it’s best to shuck the oysters and save the liquid to cover the oysters in. Below are some suggested freezer storing times:
- Lobster – 3-4 months
- Scallops – 6 months
- Mussels – 3-4 months
- Clams – 3-4 months
- Oysters – 4-6 months
- Shrimp – 4-6 months
As always, if you ever have any seafood related questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us through our website, or to come have a chat with us in person at the Warehouse at 2867 Isleville Street in Halifax’s North End on Thursdays from 11 to 7, during the market day, and soon on Fridays and Saturdays too!