How to Care for Seafood

bsb-jumbo-filletThe best thing you can do to protect your seafood purchase is to plan ahead. Sign-up for our weekly email to see what will be at markets and plan your meals before you buy. You can then pre-order your items and we will have them waiting at the market for you. If your plans change, you can freeze your items as soon as possible. Having a plan will make sure that you get them most out of your fresh North Carolina Locals Seafood.

Here are a few specific things you can do to keep your fish and shellfish as fresh as possible.

  • Keep your seafood on ice until you get home.
  • Store it in the refrigerator at 32 degrees.
  • Make the decision to eat it fresh or freeze it right away.
  • If freezing your fish, remove as much air in the package as possible.
  • Eat it fresh within 3 days.
  • Thaw your frozen fish correctly.

>> Visit SafeOysters.org for info on storing LIVE SHELLFISH

Keep your seafood on ice until you get home.
We will gladly pack ice with your seafood no matter how far you are travelling. Even a short trip in the summer heat can reduce the quality of your purchase. It is a good idea to complete all of your other errands before buying seafood so you can go straight home. Finally, we recommend that you always bring a cooler.

There are different requirements for some shellfish like live crabs that need circulated fresh air. Our market staff will make sure you are informed on any special storage requirements.

Store it in the refrigerator at 32 degrees.
Immediately place your fish in the coldest part of the fridge in a location by itself where it is not crowded with other items. The coldest location is always in the back. If you have a refrigerator with an ice machine the coldest part will actually be at the top in the back. If you don’t have an ice maker the coldest location is bottom shelf in the back. Oysters and clams should be stored in the refrigerator in an open container. Never add water to live shellfish.

Make the decision to eat it fresh or freeze it right away.
If there is any chance you won’t be able to eat your seafood within 3 days freeze it on the day you bought it. You don’t want to wait a few days and then decide to freeze. This is a common practice and one that we definitely discourage. Plan ahead. If you know you can’t eat it now then freeze it now. Don’t be afraid of freezing if you can’t eat your seafood fresh. Freezing locks in the current freshness of your product.

Fin fish that are high in oil and fat do not freeze well. This includes species like Bluefish, King Mackerel, and Spanish Mackerel. Please ask our staff at the market if a fish is good for freezing or not. We do not recommend freezing live shellfish such as clams, hardshell crabs, or oysters. It is a common practice in North Carolina to freeze shrimp, crabmeat, and softshell crabs to enjoy in the off season.

How to freeze seafood at home
Air causes freezer burn and is your main enemy when freezing. Below are methods of freezing preparation that do a good job of removing air from the package. With any method you should have a quart sized plastic container to lay your fillets in the freezer. This way they will keep their flat shape. You also want your seafood to freeze fast. Make sure your freezer is at 0 degrees or colder, and don’t open the freezer for a few hours after freezing.

a. If you plan to freeze seafood on a regular basis there is no substitute for a vacuum sealer. And investment in a sealer will provide you the highest quality home freezing solution. A sealer will run you anywhere from $80-$120.

b. Displace the air in a plastic bag with a bowl of water. This is a high quality, simple and cost effective way to prepare your fish for freezing.

  1. Fill a bowl with enough ice water to completely submerge your fish in a Ziploc bag until there is only a half inch of plastic bag left above the water.
  2. Feel the fish to see if the bag has sufficiently vacuum sealed in the package. Due to the Archimedes principal in physics the water will displace the air.
  3. Close the bag. Write the fish name and 3 month eat-by date on the Ziploc bag. Lay it in the plastic container in your freezer.

c. Plastic wrap and foil.

  1. Lay a 2 foot long sheet of plastic wrap on your kitchen counter.
  2. Remove your fillet from our package and place it on one end of the plastic wrap.
  3. Fold it over tightly, squeezing out as much air as you can.
  4. Repeat this folding and squeezing process until you get to the other end.
  5. Fold the plastic wrap ends under the fillet.
  6. Wrap the package in aluminum foil.
  7. Fish like this should keep for 3 months. Write the name of the fish and the “eat by” date on the foil.

d. Ice glaze. This is the best method for shell on shrimp.
Put a metal pan in your freezer ahead of time and get it nice and cold. Then, dip the shrimp in very cold salted water and immediately put them onto the cold baking pan in the freezer the shrimp will have an ice glaze on them in less than 5 minutes. Repeat this process a couple of times until you have about a 1/4” thick glaze on each shrimp. Then put as much shrimp as you will want for a meal into a bag and seal it well, removing every bit of air that you can.

e. Freeze your seafood in water. This is one way to displace all the air. This is another common method for freezing shrimp on the N.C. coast. You will want to remember that water expands as it freezes. So leave a good inch or two at the top of your Ziploc container. We don’t like this method as much because the contact with tap water can impart off flavors. If you can’t do any of the other methods, however, this is better than nothing.

  • Put your fish or shrimp in a Glad or Ziploc plastic container, those used for leftovers.
  • Add water to cover the seafood completely.
  • Leave enough room for the seafood to expand.

Eat your seafood fresh within 3 days.
We are at markets every week. If you don’t have a need to buy bulk then get what you need for one week and come back the next. We encourage you to plan ahead and eat what you buy within 3 days. If you can’t eat it within 3 days, freeze it as soon as you can.

Thaw your frozen fish correctly.
We recommend that you eat your frozen seafood within 3 months. Seafood should be hawed as quickly as possible, but never in hot water or at room temperature. Thawing at room temperature can create uneven thawing and cause thin sections to slightly spoil before the thicker portions thaw. Thawing in hot water creates excessive loss of moisture and flavor through a process of breaking down proteins in the meat.

The best options are to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, run under cold running water, or microwave on defrost at the lowest setting.