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Can You Freeze Fish in Its Marinade?

You can freeze anything. The real question is whether you want to. Here’s why freezing fish in its marinade isn’t really a good idea.

Marinades are a fantastic way to add aroma and flavor to your home-cooked fish. A marinade can take your fish dish to a whole new level and have everyone’s legs jiggling in anticipation come dinner time.

That’s all well and good, and there’s no question that marinades are a great thing. But we both know that you’re here for a different reason: You’ve marinated more fish than you and your family can eat in a single meal.

Now, you found yourself wondering, “What on earth am I supposed to do with it?” That is, do you freeze the raw fish in its marinade (then thaw it out and cook it some other day) or cook it first and then refrigerate or freeze it for storage?

Considering how popular of a food fish is, you’d think there would already be some good information out there on the subject. But the fact of the matter is that most of the advice on the Internet about this is just plain wrong.

So we thought we’d write this guide to set the record straight once and for all.

Why You Shouldn’t Freeze Marinated Fish

In cooking, there are things that you can do—and yet shouldn’t do. Freezing raw fish in its marinade is one of them.

Technically, you can freeze raw fish in its marinade. The fish and the marinade will freeze well and keep for a really long time in the freezer. Since freezer temperature puts spoilage and pathogenic bacteria into hibernation, the fish will stay safe to eat forever.

But there’s a compelling reason why you don’t want to freeze fish in its marinade, and it has to do with the mushy texture that the fish gets when marinated for too long.

It isn’t a good idea to freeze raw fish in its marinade because the acids will continue to tenderize the proteins in the freezer, and the fish will be unappetizingly mushy when thawed out and cooked.

Cook the Fish and Refrigerate or Freeze It Instead

Marinated more fish than you and your household can eat in a single meal? Cook it anyway, let it cool, and refrigerate or freeze it for storage. If you’re not sure how long it will keep, refer to the rules of thumb below.

Storing cooked fish in the fridge:

As a general rule, cooked fish can be stored in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. To store fish in the refrigerator, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or seal it in a food storage container with the lid closed.

Remember that refrigeration slows down but doesn’t stop bacterial growth, and that the bacteria that make you sick don’t alter the smell, taste, and texture of your food like spoilage bacteria do.

If you’ve stored cooked fish for longer than 4 days, throw it away—you have no way of knowing whether it will make you sick or not.

Storing cooked fish in the freezer:

Cooked fish can be kept in the freezer indefinitely because the temperature of the freezer puts the bacteria that spoil our food and cause food poisoning into hibernation.

However, frozen cooked fish retains its best quality only 4 months from the date of freezing. After that, it begins to dry out and lose flavor, and so it becomes more and more unappetizing with time.

Seal the cooked fish in freezer bags or freezer containers to protect it from freezer burn. (This condition occurs when the fish is dehydrated and oxidized by contact with the cold air circulating in your freezer.)

Freezer-burn fish is generally safe to eat, but the parts affected by freezer burn are also tasteless. Cut them out and throw them out—they won’t get eaten anyway—then use up the rest.

How to Marinate Fish Properly

To prepare your fish for cooking, whether you’re going to marinate it or not, first rinse it under cold running water in the sink. Much of the fishy odor comes from bacteria on the surface of the fish, which you can easily get rid of with a good rinse.

The best marinades for fish are acidic. They’re prepared with freshly squeezed citrus juice, white wine, or vinegar. The acidity helps mellow out the fishy flavors, which can make a world of a difference if you’re cooking fish a day or two old.

There are two ways to marinate fish: One is to coat it on both sides with the marinade, lay it in a tray lined with parchment paper, then refrigerate it. The other is to immerse it completely in the marinade, in a casserole or food storage container, and put it in the fridge.

Marinate the fish briefly, for 15 to 60 minutes depending on the size of the fish or filets, and don’t forget to keep it refrigerated. Then rinse off the marinade thoroughly and pat the fish completely dry before cooking it.

In Conclusion

Don’t freeze raw fish in its marinade. The acids in the ice crystals will over-tenderize the proteins in the freezer, and the fish will turn out mushy when cooked.

If you marinated more fish than you and the household can eat in a single meal, cook it, let it cool down, and then refrigerate (for up to 4 days) or freeze (for up to 4 months).

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.