Can You Marinate Frozen Fish?

If you love flavor in your fish, then a marinade is all you need to bring the flavors of different parts of the world to your favorite fish. You can go with spicy Caribbean flavors or more subtle flavors of French cuisine, where lemon on butter makes fish into a glorious dish to be savored and enjoyed.

Did you know that the total fish sales in the US for fresh and frozen fish are around 15 billion USD yearly? Americans can’t get enough fish for the dining table, so adding flavor to fish has become increasingly essential to please the family.

With frozen fish amounting to approximately half the fish sales in the US, this article will explore the best ways to marinate frozen fish and answer the most frequently asked questions on the subject.

Let’s dive in.

Does marinating frozen fish impart flavor?

Unless you are a fish purest and love the flavor of fish from the ocean, many people opt for marinating fish to add flavors they love. Traditionally, tomatoes with dill and chives with melted butter would be the base for a  classic combination based on French cuisine.

But you can be more adventurous and add some zing to your fish with the string spices of the Caribbean with allspice, garlic, and chili. 

The flavor boost can be a sensational change to the fish, turning it from something enjoyable but slightly bland to a crescendo of flavors wrapped around delicate fish flakes.

But all of that is fine with fresh fish. How about frozen fish stored in solid icy slabs? Will it marinate, penetrate the ice and add flavor to the fish, or is it a fool’s errand with nothing to be achieved?

Adding a marinade to a frozen piece of fish will do nothing. It may impart a slight flavor, but it is nothing worth mentioning. The marinate will not be able to penetrate the ice, so that you will be wasting your time, effort, and marinade ingredients.

As the fish thaws, it will release a lot of water to wash the marinade from the fish, leaving you with a bag of fish and a separate marinade.

How long can you marinate fish in the freezer?

It may seem like a strange concept to marinate frozen fish, but it does leave a delicate flavor in the fish that can be enjoyed at any time. But keep in mind you can’t marinate fish that is frozen. It needs to be done prior to freezing or post-freezing when thawed.

Frozen raw fish is best within eight months of being frozen, according to the USDA, so adding a marinate any time before the end of freezer life would be acceptable.

Adding subtle marinates to frozen fish will impart a delicate hint of the flavors chosen, but more robust flavors have a bigger impact on the fish.

Garlic chili, all spice powder, and scallions will infuse their flavors even when frozen into fish.

What are the best marinate bases for frozen fish?

Remember that acids will cook the flash of fish, and you are not creating ceviche. The acids in citrus fruits and vinegar will denature the flesh of the fish the same as heat, effectively cooking the fish ceviche style.

Choose an oil-based marinate, and it will keep the water away from the fish and give a better luscious coating to the fish. Oil is an excellent carrier of flavors and should be the preferred method of marinating.

However, you should choose to marinate for the type of fish you are cooking. Some fish are firm, while others are more delicate and have a flaky texture to the meat. Larger game fish are generally firm and can handle more robust marinades than Mahi Mahi, where the flesh is more delicate.

How do you marinate frozen fish?

You will need to start the thawing process and thaw the fish to a point where the marinate will be absorbed into the fish.

For food safety, you should not leave fish on a countertop overnight or for a few hours to marinate. The proliferation of perishable food at room temperature for two hours is considered garbage.

Thaw your fish in the fridge overnight, and you can add the marinate while the fish is frozen. It may dilute a little as the fish releases the water, but by and large, it will work fine.

If you want to thaw the fish quickly, place it in a bowl with water, you can leave the fish in the bag it was supplied with or place it in a Ziploc bag with the marinade. Even a big piece can thaw in under an hour, so watch the time you leave the marinate on the fish.

Never thaw fish at room temperature in the open air.

Can you add marinade to partly frozen fish?

Yes, you can. If you don’t intend not to cook your fish, you can add a marinate and refreeze the fish, this should lock in the flavor profile you wished to achieve, and the fish should take on a tender meaty texture when done. You can rinse the marinade off when you thaw the fish for cooking.

Don’t add a marinate with acids such as citric acid from lemons or vinegar, as this will partly cook the fish and may render it inedible when it is thawed again. Use good olive oil or butter to make a perfect flavor carrier for your marinate base.

Can fish be marinated and then frozen?

It’s common practice to marinate fish and then freeze it. You can find frozen marinated fish in your grocery store under the freezer section but be careful with the flavors used in the marinade.

Although the marinade will be frozen with the fish, some delicate infusion will continue as flavors have mingled. Intense flavors like chili and garlic could become overpowering.

What are the essential ingredients of marinating products?

For fish, it’s just oil, butter, and spices. Adding acid is going to service the fish and cook the flesh. Not all fish is suitable for this cooking, so it needs some thought and care.

But by all means, you can marinade your fish in the fridge overnight, place it in a Ziploc bag, and freeze it until needed the next day.

Is fresh fish better to marinate than frozen fish?

There is a debate about the fish on your table. When you buy fresh fish from the fish market, it has been frozen while transported, thawed, and sold to you as fresh. It’s perfectly fine, but you don’t know how fresh the fish is.

On the other hand, when fish is caught and frozen on the ship, it has its freshness frozen into it, and you can primarily guarantee the fish in your freezer is exceptionally fresh.

Even experienced chefs come to terms with the facts regarding freezing fish and accept that frozen fish can be a superior product for the reasons mentioned above.

Of course, it depends on how long the fish has been frozen. Ask a top chef to cook frozen fish sitting in the freezer for eight months, and they will laugh in your face.

Can you marinate fish for too long?

Yes, you can marinate fish for too long. The longer you leave fish in a marinade, the more moisture will be pulled from the fish, and the moisture is not just water. It’s the fish juices that are coming out, the part of the fish that makes the fish succulent and flavorsome.

When the fish’s juices have leached out of the flesh, you can be left with a firm, salty piece of fish. What didn’t come out during the leaching process was the salt of the ocean.

Adding oil or butter and the marinate base can prevent some leachings as moisture and oil do not mix.

How can you marinate fish and freeze it? The freezing process places the marinate in a stage of suspended animation. It can’t add flavor or draw moisture from the fish. The process stops.

Can you marinate frozen salmon for three days?

Many people use lemon or citrus justice when marinating salmon. The citrus is effectively cooking the salmon ceviche. If this is your salmon, you should only marinate it in the manner for thirty minutes.

If you know your salmon is super fresh when caught and frozen, this is a great way to eat marinated salmon. It is very fresh and clean on the palate.

However, the salmon should not be marinated for more than 24 hours in the fridge for standard marination.

Final thoughts.

Marinating frozen fish is a great way to impart flavor to the protein. You can go with subtle flavors or opt for robust spicy flavors.

But particular marinate works better with different types of fish. Delicate fish like flounder or sole benefit from a light lemon butter marinade. In contrast, other game fish that use muscle for hunting prey and invading being hunted have firmer flesh that is more suited to more robust flavor profiles and even spicy marinades.

Tuna is one example that can handle the spicy chili marinades without the intense flavors overpowering the fish.

Freezing fish with a marinade is acceptable, and the freezing process suspends the marination of the fish.

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