The best way to enjoy fish is to eat it as soon as you can after buying it, but sometimes life gets in the way and you have to store your fish in the fridge until you can cook it.
Most of us probably put the fish on a fridge shelf and leave it there, but this isn’t the ideal way to store it. Even fish just out of the sea will noticeably degrade after just one night at 38 degrees F, or 3 degrees C, which is around the temperature that most people’s fridges operate at.
Keeping your fish overnight at that temperature won’t make you ill, but it’s not good if you were planning to make ceviche or other near-raw dishes with it – you need your fish as fresh and perfect as possible.
Here are a few guidelines for storing your fish in the refrigerator so it’s as fresh as possible when you want to use it.
1. Use Ice Packs
It’s easy to lower the temperature for storing fish by using ice or ice packs and laying the fillets or cleaned whole fish on top of them. By using ice, you can reduce the temperature to around 32F (0C), which can keep your fish fresh for up to two or three days.
This is why fishmongers display their fish on lots of ice, and it’s the same reason they also use aluminium sheet pans – the pans keep fish cold by channelling heat energy from the fish to the ice underneath the pan.
2. Keep the Fish Dry
It’s important to keep the fish flesh as dry as possible, because the bacteria responsible for fish spoilage will multiply in moisture, so the wetter the fish, the quicker it will spoil.
Store the fish in a single layer, as piling them together will expose the flesh to the moisture of the other fish, which encourages bacteria growth.
3. Cover the Fish
Fish need to be well covered for storing in the fridge, as the air will dry it out too much. The best way to store fish is to rinse the fish fillets and dry them well with paper towels. Put them in a single layer in a zip-top bag, and press out as much air as you can. Lay the bag on top of a tray or plate lined with ice or ice packs, and put more ice on top of the bag. Put the whole lot on the bottom shelf of the fridge, tucked all the way to the back.
If you don’t have ice packs, you can ask our fishmonger for a couple of bags of crushed ice, which they will usually provide.
4. Alternative Covering Method
If you don’t like the idea of wrapping your fish in plastic, you can do it another way. Place the fish on an aluminium sheet tray, and place that tray on a layer of ice placed in a perforated pan. Set that pan into a third, larger one, and cover the whole thing up.
The drawback to this method is the space and amount of pans it requires, but if you buy fresh fish often you might find it worthwhile to buy a set of pans just for this purpose.
Whichever method you choose, as long as the fish remains dry and cold, it will still taste as good after a day or two than it would if you ate it as soon as you got it home.