Tilapia is a fish that’s known for its mild-flavored and tender flesh. This fish is also inexpensive which makes that one of the most popular consumed types of seafood. Tilapia is highly perishable and needs to be refrigerated at all times to prevent spoilage. However, storing them in the fridge will only keep them fresh for a couple of days. If you need to keep them fresh longer, can you freeze tilapia?
So, can you freeze tilapia? Yes, you can freeze tilapia. The fish freeze well in the freezer due to the high water content that it has. Tilapia that’s prepared and properly stored in either an airtight container or freezer bag will last 6-8 months in the freezer. The fish can last longer, for up to a year if it’s vacuum-sealed.
Does Tilapia Freeze Well?
Like any other fish, tilapia freeze well due to their high content of moisture. Tilapia that’s properly frozen will last in the freezer for quite a long time.
To keep them fresh in the freezer for a long time, it should be prepared first and stored in an airtight container or freezer bag.
How To Freeze Tilapia
Freezing tilapia is simple but requires a bit of time prepping them for the freezer. This is to ensure it will stay fresh for a long time in the freezer.
You can either freeze the whole tilapia or just the fillet. Below are the different methods with details to freezing tilapia:
Freezing the Whole Tilapia
- Start by cleaning the fish thoroughly. Remove the gut and scale the fish. Scaling the fish will make it easier for it to freeze.
- Place the fish on a wax paper and put it into the freezer for about 2-3 hours.
- Once the fish is completely frozen, take it out from the freezer.
- Wrap the frozen fish in an aluminum foil wrapper a couple of times.
- Place the wrapped fish into a freezer bag.
- Press on the bag to remove as much air from the bag as you can.
- Seal the bag tightly and label it with a freezing date.
- Place the fish into the freezer.
Freezing Tilapia Fillet
- After the fish has been filleted, clean the fish by placing it under running water for a few seconds to remove any debris that may be on the flesh.
- Pretreat the tilapia fish by dipping it in a brine of 1/4 cup salt to 1 quart of cold water. This solution is to help improve the quality of the stored fish by giving it a firm texture and to decrease drip loss from thawing.
- Dip the tilapia in the solution for 20 seconds.
- Place the fish on a wax paper and put it into the freezer for 1-2 hours.
- Once it’s completely frozen, remove the fish from the freezer.
- Dip the fish into near-freezing ice water for 5 seconds.
- Place the wax paper and freeze it again for a few minutes to harden the glaze.
- Take the fish and dip it in ice water once more until a uniform cover of ice is formed.
- Wrap the fish in a moisture-vapor resistant paper a couple of times.
- Place the fish into a freezer bag and press the bag to remove any excess air.
- Seal the bag tightly and label it with a freezing date.
- Place the tilapia fish into the freezer.
Freezing Using Vacuum Sealed
If you want to keep the tilapia fish in the freezer longer, vacuum-sealing the fish is the best method. When tilapia is vacuum-sealed, they tend to last for a year or even longer.
This method will require you to have a vacuum-sealing machine. The machine will extract all the air from the bag before sealing it. Since there is no air in the bag, it will lessen the chance of the fish getting freezer burn. This will result in the fish having a shelf life of 1 year, instead of the usual 6-8 months.
How Long Can You Freeze Tilapia?
Tilapia that is properly stored in an airtight container or freezer bag will last 6 to 8 months in the freezer. However, if you want the fish to last even longer, you can vacuum-seal them. Doing so will extend their shelf life in the freezer for up to 1 year.
After that time, tilapia will still be safe to eat. The only thing is the quality of the fish as it will start to deteriorate. The flesh may start to break apart and the flavor will be a bit bland.
How Do You Defrost Tilapia?
There are a couple of different ways to thaw tilapia. You can defrost them on the stove, in warm water, or in the fridge.
However, the best method to thawing tilapia to retain their texture and taste is in the fridge.
To thaw tilapia in the fridge, remove them from the freezer and place them on a plate, and put it in the fridge. Allow the fish to thaw overnight or for at least 6-8 hours. Once it’s thawed, you can use them to make a delicious meal and it will be as fresh as when it was caught.
If you need the fish much sooner, leave them in the bag and place them into a bowl of cool water. Let it sit for about 20 minutes and it should be completely thawed.
Can You Refreeze Tilapia?
Yes, you can refreeze tilapia, only under two conditions. The fish must not be completely thawed and it has to be thawed in the fridge.
If the fish has thawed completely, most of the moisture has already leaked from the flesh. For that reason, the texture of the fish is damaged and the flavors are lost. By freezing tilapia again, the quality of the fish is very poor and you’ll end up with a fish that’s bland and flesh that will separate when it thaw.
As for the second reason, tilapia needs to be thawed in the fridge if you’re going to refreeze it. Leaving the fish to thaw at room temperature or letting it sit there could cause bacteria to contaminate it.
By freezing the fish again, you may end up freezing the bacteria as well. The bacteria will damage the fish during freezing and could also cause food poisoning.
Can Frozen Tilapia Go Bad?
Frozen tilapia can go bad if it’s either stored in the freezer for a prolonged time or it’s left to thaw for too long.
In the freezer, properly stored, tilapia can last for up to 6-8 months. After that, the quality of it will start to deteriorate. The tilapia will still be safe to eat though.
When it’s stored for over a year in the freezer is when the fish will go bad. The tilapia will suffer severely from freezer burn that the fish will no longer have any taste to it and the flesh will separate.
Another way in which tilapia can go bad is when it’s left to thaw for too long. If you leave the fish to thaw in the fridge, it can be left there for another day or so. After that, the fish will no longer be safe to consume and should be discarded.
Also, after tilapia has thawed and left at room temperature, it can go bad as well. At room temperature, it can get contaminated with harmful bacteria quickly. Usually, within 2 hours or so, the fish will not be safe to eat anymore due to the bacteria that are on the fish.
Other Questions about Tilapia
Why did my frozen tilapia turn orange?
Tilapia shouldn’t turn orange at all. The reason for this is due to the frozen tilapia being treated with carbon monoxide (CO). This is usually tilapia that’s imported from other countries. It’s a way to help the fish look fresh longer by delaying the oxidation of the fish.
Carbon monoxide treated tilapia will have a red or orange vein. When the fish starts to spoil, the entire fish will turn orange.
A passionate cook and stay-at-home mom. Since I spend most of the time in the kitchen, keeping the pantry clean and organized is a top priority. Besides being a clean freak, I enjoy gardening, hiking and other activities under the sun.