Vacuum-sealing fish may seem like an extensive process at first glance, but all good things take time. By vacuum-sealing, your fish can last for months and taste as fresh as the day it was caught. Instead of trying to cook freezer-burned fish with a strong fishy taste, avoid it altogether by vacuum-sealing your next catch.
What is Vacuum Sealing & Does it Make a Difference?
Food Saver says Americans lose $1,300 on spoiled food annually. Save money and your catch by using these nine tips for vacuum-sealing fish. Vacuum sealing removes oxygen and moisture from plastic bags used to store food, which are the culprits that cause food to expire and spoil. By eliminating the oxygen, vacuum sealing significantly increases the shelf life of food. Typically, there are one to two fillets per vacuum-sealed bag. Once the fish is placed inside, the vacuum sealer seals it shut by thermally bonding the bag. By vacuum sealing, the freezer life of your fish can last for 1-2 years without freezer burn spots or spoilage.
1. Select a Vacuum Sealer
There are countless vacuum sealer options, ranging from personal use to industrial grade. Keep in mind that vacuum sealers can be expensive, depending on their features. As a starting point, check out this recent vacuum sealer review from New York Magazine here. This review covers the leading vacuum sealers with basic features, ranging from an affordable $47 to top-of-the-line models at $280. Regardless of your familiarity with vacuum sealing, the benefits make it a worthwhile investment for anglers who regularly store fish.
2. Keep the Sealing Bag Dry
When preparing to seal a fillet in its bag, make sure the end you're sealing is completely dry. Some anglers like to place paper towels at the top 2-3 inches of the bag, under the bag's seal, as an extra precaution. Before sealing, ensure that no part of your fish fillet is in the sealing area. Otherwise, it can lead to spoilage. The goal is to seal your fillet in its bag with as little moisture as possible.
3. Dry Fillets Thoroughly with Paper Towels
The goal of vacuum-sealing fish is to remove as much moisture as possible so your fish stays fresh for months. Use paper towels to dry your fish fillets because they absorb moisture quickly and are easy to discard. This step is essential if you decide to brine your fish, as your fillets will be wet after soaking in the brine.
4. Check for Bones
Check carefully for any bones, particularly rib bones. Occasionally, rib bones can protrude from fillets and pierce sealed bags. Removing bones also makes your catch more enjoyable to eat months later.
5. Avoid Overfilling Bags to be Sealed
It is important to avoid overfilling the vacuum seal bag because it becomes more challenging to keep air and moisture out as you add more fish. Avoid stacking fish fillets on each other and lay them flat instead. Fill the vacuum seal bag evenly without overfilling to keep your fish fresh.
6. Thaw Your Fish
One method to thaw your fish is to place your frozen fish in a deep bowl or tray and fill it with cold tap water. Contrary to popular belief, do not use warm or hot water, and make sure all the pieces are fully submerged. Next, let your fish thaw in the cold water for 15-20 minutes. Now, you can remove your fish from the vacuum seal packaging, blot it dry, and cook. Another method is to leave the frozen fish in the fridge overnight and allow it to thaw slowly. It is best practice to leave your fish in the vacuum seal bag as it thaws because otherwise, it will absorb water and lose flavor. Check out our defrosting guide for more tips on how to defrost your fish.
Although vacuum sealing takes longer, the process ensures that your fish will taste incredible months later. After completing these nine steps, your fish should taste as fresh as the day you caught it.