Tips for freezing fish and seafood on a boat when cruising

How to Store Seafood in Your Boat Refrigerator

One 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!

Tips for storing and freezing fish and seafood on a boat when cruising

I'd like to know about...

Explore more

Want weekly tidbits of cruising information? Sign up for The Boat Galley's free weekly newsletter. You'll get the newest articles and podcasts as well as a few relevant older articles that you may have missed.

Do you find The Boat Galley useful? You can support the site when you buy from Amazon by using the links on this site or clicking below. No extra cost for you!

  • dawn
    Posted at 13 December 2010 Reply

    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.

  • Sheila C.
    Posted at 15 December 2010 Reply

    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!

  • Downeast32
    Posted at 17 March 2011 Reply

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

  • MaryJo on Facebook
    Posted at 24 November 2011 Reply

    Amen to that! Happy Thanksgiving, Carolyn.

  • Maryalice Mackey
    Posted at 21 July 2012 Reply

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

  • Sam Steele
    Posted at 19 March 2013 Reply

    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.

  • Music
    Posted at 18 September 2013 Reply

    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.

  • Fred
    Posted at 05 April 2014 Reply

    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?

  • Paul French
    Posted at 23 February 2015 Reply

    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.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 23 February 2015 Reply

      In Mexico and Central America — where we cruised — Mahi is called Dorado.

    Posted at 23 February 2017 Reply

    Put a little salt water in with it and then squeeze the air out of it. Zip your bag up until the last inch then put it down on a towel and squeeze until the water is coming out. Then quickly zip the last inch – – no air.

  • Elena Manighetti
    Posted at 28 February 2017 Reply

    Hey do you have any tips for storing food without refrigeration? We won’t have a fridge on our little sailboat but we’ll live on it full-time 🙂

Post A Comment