How long can you freeze seafood? (3 storage tips)
In this article, we will answer the question “How long can you freeze seafood?” We will also discuss the pros and cons of freezing seafood, how to freeze it and how to safely defrost it.
How long can you freeze seafood?
Frozen fish or shellfish lasts indefinitely if kept at a constant temperature of (0 °F / -18 °C or less). However, cooked fish is best consumed within 3 months after being frozen, frozen raw fish within 6 months, and shellfish within 2 days for best quality (1,2,3).
Shelf life of other types of frozen seafood
Overall, seafood can last between 3–6 months when constantly stored in the freezer (1,3)
|Non-oily fish||fillets and whole fish – 6 months|
|Oily fish||fillets and whole fish – 3 months|
|Mussels, clams, and pipis||meat only- 3 months|
|Squid, cuttlefish, and octopus||3 months|
|Prawns||whole, shell-on (freezing peeled prawns at home is not recommended) – 3 months|
|Other crustaceans (lobster, bugs, crabs)||3 months|
What are the pros and cons of freezing seafood?
Pros of freezing seafood
Freezing seafood preserves its quality and extends its shelf life by slowing down enzymatic and microbial activity (1).
Additionally, rapid freezing at ultra-low temperatures (-18 °C or lower) helps to retain the texture, flavour and nutritional content of seafood, reducing the risk of spoilage and keeping it fresh (1).
Freezing can also slow down lipid oxidation (fats and oils reacting with oxygen to form off-flavours, rancidity and odours) (4).
Cons of freezing seafood
Freezing can lead to cellular damage due to the formation of ice crystals, which can potentially affect texture like freezer burn and moisture retention upon thawing (1,5).
Certain types of delicate seafood, like some fish species, can be more susceptible to quality deterioration from freezing (6).
Moreover, freezing-thawing cycles and extended storage can contribute to a decline in quality, like off-flavours (1).
How to freeze seafood?
To freeze seafood, whether fresh or cooked, vacuum-sealing is your best way to do so before storing it in the freezer. If that is not possible, follow the steps below to properly store seafood in the freezer (1,7).
- Tightly wrap the seafood using cling wrap to block as much air as possible. Then transfer to a freezer bag or airtight container. In the case of prawns, put them in a container containing water.
- Use a high-quality airtight container with a tight seal.
- Put a clear label on the container and freeze at a steady temperature of -18 ℃.
- Consume within 3–6 months of storage.
How to safely defrost seafood?
According to the USDA, the best way to defrost frozen food is in the refrigerator. To do this, you have to move the food from the freezer to the refrigerator and allow it to thaw for a few hours or maybe overnight (8).
You can also defrost in the microwave, but make sure to stir the food to avoid uneven thawing. After this, it’s recommended to cook the food as soon as possible to avoid the risk of microbial growth (8,9).
Defrost vacuum-sealed seafood into a container full of tap water. Let it sit there for an hour and make sure to cook it right after thawing (9).
In case you change your mind, if the seafood was properly thawed in the refrigerator and was not left out of the fridge for more than 2 hours, you can store it again in the freezer even (10).
How to reheat seafood?
To safely reheat seafood and minimize potential bacterial growth, you should reheat it to an internal temperature of at least 145 °F (63 °C) within two hours of removing it from the refrigerator (11).
You can rapidly reheat the seafood on the stovetop or in the microwave to reduce the time seafood spends in the “danger zone” (40-140 °F) where bacteria grow faster (11,12).
In this article, we answered the question “How long can you freeze seafood?” We also discussed the pros and cons of freezing seafood, how to freeze it and how to safely defrost it.
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Freezing and Food Safety. USDA, 2013
How can I prepare seafood? USDA, 2023.
Hultin HO. Oxidation of lipids in seafoods. In: Shahidi, F., Botta, J.R. (eds) Seafoods: Chemistry, Processing Technology and Quality. Springer, 1994.
lsailawi, H.A., et al. Effect of Frozen Storage on the Quality of Frozen Foods-A Review. J Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, 2020, 14(3).
Mahmud A, et al. Fish preservation: a multi-dimensional approach. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018, 6(3):303‒310.
Are You Storing Food Safely?. FDA, 2023.
The Big Thaw – Safe Defrosting Methods. USDA, 2013
Cooking – Food Safety for Moms to Be. FDA, 2018.
Is it safe to refreeze food that has thawed?. USDA, 2023.
What methods of reheating food are safe?. USDA, 2023.
What is the “2 Hour Rule” with leaving food out?. USDA, 2023.