Can you freeze Tilapia?

The ever-present Tilapia is a remarkable white fish that has been feeding families for generations. But do you know how to select fresh Tilapia? The eyes should be bulging and bright, with no fishy smells. Go for the elasticity test. If your finger leaves an imprint, leave the Tilapia alone. But storing delicate white fish can be a challenge, do Tilapia freezer?

Did you know that cooking Tilapia in a cast iron skillet is not recommended? The Tilapia will stick and fall apart when you move it with a spatula! Stainless steel nonstick pans outperform cast iron pans giving a better quality of meat when Tilapia is cooked.

Storing delicate fresh white fish like Tilapia can make seasoned chefs worry! In this article, we will explore how to store Tilapia for more than a couple of days to enjoy this white flakey delicate fish months after you buy it. We answer many frequently asked questions to increase your culinary skills.

Let’s dive in.

Does Tilapia expire?

Yes. Tilapia is a delicate freshwater white fish, and where you buy it from will make a difference to the fish and its expiry. If the Tilapia is fresh, it can last up to four days in the fridge, which is better than other white fish but should be stored correctly.

The Tilapia you buy is farmed. It is alive and should be of the best quality. If you are not buying US-farmed Tilapia, it’s recommended to buy Tilapia farmed in Peru or Ecuador.

Avoid buying Tilapia farmed in China, there are no certifications, and the artificial feeds and chemicals used in Chinese fish farming are suspect, so avoid the Chinese Tilapia regardless of how good it looks.

Your seafood market should be able to tell you where the Tilapia was farmed. It’s standard practice, and most fish sellers are more than willing to provide information about their fish. If they are not, it may be time to find another fish market that is more receptive to selling fresh fish and talking to the buyers.

When you buy Tilapia from your local fish market, the Tilapia should only have a mild smell, and if it smells strongly of fish, it is expired. Look for Tilapia that has good elasticity. If you press the Tilapia, there should not be a lingering mark. If there is, the Tilapia is less than fresh, and its shelf life may be a day when you get it home.

When you get the fish home, you should eat it while it is fresh for the peak quality. If you store it in the fridge, the Tilapia should be placed on a tray of crushed ice with the melting water being caught in a bowl.

However, it is essential that the Tilapia is placed on grease-proof paper and the flesh does not come into contact with the ice or water. If it does, the flesh will be damaged, and the quality will be diminished.

Does Tilapia need to be refrigerated?

Yes. Fish, in general, are susceptible to bacteria growth, so Tilapia should be refrigerated as a priority; if you have fresh Tilapia from the fish market, it will have some special requirements to store in the fridge. But they are not onerous, so it is not a big deal.

Fish have to be exceptionally cold to remain fresh. Fresh Tilapia with intact skin can be placed in a freezer bag with ice and then placed flat in the fridge. The ice will melt and should be topped up regularly to keep the fish cold.

If you have fresh filets of Tilapia, the fish should be placed on grease-proof paper and then on a bed of ice. The ice will melt, so you must jerry-rig a double bowl system to catch the melted ice.

Tilapia that has been vacuum packed is the ideal solution, but it still needs to be kept cold, so turn down the thermostat on the fridge and keep your Tilapia at approximately 33 to 35℉.

Does Tilapia need to be covered? Does it make a difference?

Its personal preference is that Tilapia should not smell the fridge out, and if the fridge is cold, you may just want to cover the fish with grease-proof paper. If you have a whole fish, it will be on the ice in a freezer bag stored in the fridge, vacuum-packed, covered, and sealed.

Can you put warm Tilapia in the fridge?

No. Let the Tilapia cool to room temperature before placing it in the fridge. Once you introduce heat into the fridge, the interior temperature could rise. For food safety reasons, warm food should not be placed in the fridge.

Your fridge temperature hovers just below 4℉. Temperatures above this are considered to be the food danger zone. The food danger zone is a temperature range from 40 to 140℉.

In this temperature range, bacterial growth accelerates. After just two hours, the bacteria will have reached significant levels, potentially making the fish or any other food stirred in the fridge inedible due to its risk of causing food poisoning.

Only place foods that have cooled to room temperature in the fridge.

How long can Tilapia sit out?

Two hours. Cooked or uncooked, the same principles apply to tilpaia as they do to other perishable foods. If the food is sitting in the danger zone, then the bacterial growth will be substantial and could make the food poisonous if left out for two hours.

According to the USDA, any perishable product has a shelf life of two hours sitting out before it becomes inedible and potentially dangerous to consume due to the proliferation of bacteria. 

These foods should be discarded.

How long does Tilapia last in the fridge?

3 to 4 days. Tilapia does tolerate being stored in the fridge better than many other white fish, and three or four days can only be achieved if the Tilapia is stored correctly.

However, the freshness of the fish is going to affect the shelf life, so select only the freshest Tilapia to gain extra shelf life in the fridge.

According to the FDA, the fridge temperature should be 4℉, and the fish should be stored on ice in a freezer bag.

If you have vacuum-packed Tilapia, the ice will not be an issue.

Cooked Tilapia should be stirred in an airtight container and has the same short shelf life as fresh Tilapia.

Does frozen Tilapia go bad?

No. If Tilapia is frozen at a constant 0℉, it should last indefinitely. Many know that statements like this are rarely factual, and the frozen product starts to degrade at some point.

It’s recommended to keep Tilapia frozen for ten months. The fish will be in peak condition if stored and frozen correctly in ten months.

How to freeze a whole Tilapia

  • If the scales are still on the Tilapia, remove them. Clean the fish thoroughly and pat dry.
  • Place the whole Tilapia on a flat tray in the freezer for an hour. This will set the meat and make packing the Tilapia much easier.
  • Once the fish is frozen, it’s time to break out the aluminum foil. You are going to wrap the Tilapia tightly. Double wrapping is acceptable.
  • Place the Tilapia into a freezer bag. Something like a ziplock that is freezer-proof would be ideal.
  • Remove the excess air from the freezer bag and seal it. This will help prevent the dreaded freezer burn.
  • Mark the freezing date on the bag and place it in the freezer.

Freezing Tilapia filets

  • Run the Tilapia under cold water, clean them, and pat dry the filet.
  • Salt the fish by rubbing salt all over the fish. This will draw excess moisture from the filet.
  • After 5 minutes, rinse the salt of the filet and pat dry again. The flesh should feel firmer.
  • Place the filets on a tray and freeze them for 30 minutes. This will firm the fish and help with the shape of the fish for freezing.
  • Once the fish is firm, place the filet in foil and then place it in a Ziploc freezer bag. 
  • Remove the air from the bag, mark the freezing date, and freeze.

To maximize the time in the freezer vacuum packed Tilapia delivers the best performance and can last well past a year.

If you have a home vacuum packaging unit vac, pack all of your frozen items for extended life, and freezer burn will become something your neighbors incur when freezing foods.

How to thaw Tilapia?

The best product is always going to be with a slow thaw. Placing the Tilapia in the fridge overnight will thaw the fish perfectly. 

If you are in a rush, it can be thawed in water.

Final thoughts

This delicate white fish may be more robust than many of you might have thought, but when it comes to stirring Tilapia, the fish must be as fresh as possible. Your fishmonger should be able to tell you the harvesting date and how long the fish will remain good in the fridge.

The good news is that Tilapia can be stirred for ten months in the freezer, and if it’s vacuum packed, it could last much longer than ten months when frozen.

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