How to Store Seafood in Your Boat Refrigerator

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2010 • all rights reserved

Tips for freezing fish and seafood on a boat when cruisingOne of the great parts of cruising is the fresh seafood you get.  Whether it’s from the back deck, a local fisherman, or even a fish market, it’s SO good when it’s fresh.  But sometimes there’s more than you need for one meal.  How do you store it?

I’ll admit that I feel sort of funny writing this article.  If you already fish a lot or live on the coast where seafood is abundant, you’re going to laugh that anyone needs to be told this.  But Dave and I are from the midwest, and we didn’t know a thing about seafood when we began cruising.  Luckily, other cruisers and some local fishermen took pity on us and taught Dave how to fillet a fish and me how to freeze the fillets and cook them.  So if you don’t have a background that includes a lot of seafood, read on . . .

Any seafood MUST be cleaned before it goes in the refrigerator or freezer.  And unless it’s something you’re keeping alive (such as clams or fish in a live well), the sooner you clean it after catching it, the better it will be.

Unless you’re going to eat the seafood that same day, it’s best to freeze it unless your refrigerator can hold a temperature of 40 degrees or less.  If you refrigerate it, be sure to put it in the coldest area of your refrigerator — low and near the chill plates.  Even if your refrigerator will hold a temperature below 40 degrees, the FDA recommends freezing any seafood you’re not going to eat in 2 days.

To freeze seafood once it’s been cleaned, use towels or paper towels and pat it dry.  The drier you get it, the better — the less ice that forms, the better the texture will be when it’s thawed again.

Then vacuum seal it or put it in a Ziploc freezer bag and get as much air out of the bag as possible. I like to put just enough for one meal for the two of us in a bag.  Be sure to label the bag with a permanent marker with what it is, date frozen, and number of portions.

Things that have sharp spines — like lobster tails with the shells on — need to be double bagged in either the vacuum bags or Ziplocs to try to protect the contents against holes in the bag and freezer burn.

The faster the seafood freezes, the better it will be.  Instead of just putting it on top of other things in your freezer, it’s good to take out some of the already-frozen food, put the new items in the middle, and then put the frozen items back on top.

When you’re ready to use the seafood, let it thaw in the bag.  Immediately before cooking it, take it out of the bag and pat it dry again.

Buen provecho!

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  1. If I freeze anything with spikes, ie Dungeoness crab legs, I first try to cut or sand down the spikes so they don’t cause holes in the plastic. It’s also much more pleasant to eat them without being stabbed while tearing into the shells later on.

  2. I don’t have a vacumn sealer. I insert a straw into the ziplock bag, zip it up tight to the straw and suck out all the air. Then while pulling the straw out, finish zipping the bag shut. Works great!

  3. Downeast32 says:

    google for a pdf of this book: “Sailing the Farm”.

  4. MaryJo on Facebook says:

    Amen to that! Happy Thanksgiving, Carolyn.

  5. Maryalice Mackey says:

    After freezing, when would you recommend eating the fish by?

  6. Sam Steele says:

    We will wrap our fish in plastic wrap prior to putting it into a ziplock and squeezing it down to protect it from freezer burn.

  7. My Mom came up with a great solution for the spines on Alaskan King Crab legs. She wraps them in a dish towel and then vacuum seals them.

  8. Great advise, but one question. When we lived in LA we were tauht to freeze our shrimp ( heads off) in water, in essence glazing them. I have tried to use the vacuumed sealer to no avail so we just put them in zip- lock bags and get as much air out as possible. It seems to work out ok but would be interested in other methods. Has anyone tried vacume bagging their shrimp?

  9. Paul French says:

    I know your a cruiser, but its a Mahi or a Dolphin. I’m a bubblehead, we didn’t get our “Dorado”s. other than that, love the site.

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