Like most types of seafood, salmon won’t keep for very long before the quality deteriorates. It can last for about 2 days if stored in your refrigerator when it’s raw, but it’s best cooked on the same day of purchase.
Freezing salmon is another good way to store it if your plans change and you need a more long-term option. Cooking your salmon before storing it in the freezer will help keep it fresher for even longer, retaining its taste and texture for up to 6 months.
So even if you ignore the “we’ve got food at home” tactic that our parents used to talk us out of it we wanted to get a takeaway instead, your fresh, good-quality salmon won’t have to go to waste.
How to Freeze Cooked Salmon
As with any food that you’re storing in the fridge or freezer, salmon should be fully cooled before you freeze it.
Wait until there’s no steam coming off the cooked fish as this will increase the moisture levels when it’s placed in the freezer which promotes bacterial growth.
First, divide the salmon into your desired serving sizes to make it easier to portion out when you come to use it. This is best done using a sharp knife, as it will help to maintain the integrity of the salmon’s shape which means it’s more visually appealing when plated.
Wrap each individual piece of salmon in saran wrap or parchment paper to prevent the fish from sticking to the freezer bag or to the other pieces as they freeze.
Place the wrapped salmon in a freezer bag, squeezing out any excess air to create a vacuum seal. You can also do this by sucking the air out using a straw.
Once you’ve sealed the freezer bag, label it with the date you’re freezing it on so you’ll be able to easily tell how long it’s been kept for.
Now your salmon can be placed inside the freezer. Try not to put heavier items on top, as this can squash the delicate fish.
How to Defrost Cooked Salmon
There are a few different ways to defrost frozen salmon, and each will have different results on the overall taste and texture of the fish.
The best way to defrost your salmon is by allowing it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. This is the most foolproof method, but it also requires more time so you’ll need to think about this the day before you’re intending to use it.
Simply take your frozen salmon out of the freezer and transfer it to the fridge on a plate, placing some paper towel underneath it to soak up any condensation as it defrosts. Leave it to thaw for 24 hours or overnight.
Another option is to defrost your salmon in a bowl of cold water. This will thaw it quicker than leaving it in the refrigerator overnight and should be ready after about an hour, although this will depend on the size of the piece of fish and how thick it is.
Place your sealed bag with the salmon into the filled bowl and check on it after 30 minutes to see how it’s going. If the water becomes tepid, swap it out for cold water and leave for another 30 minutes or until completely thawed.
You can also microwave frozen salmon to defrost it, but this poses more risk and the specific time you need will depend on the size and thickness of the fish.
When it comes out of the microwave it should still be cold, or it will dry out when you cook it.
None of The Above
If you don’t have the patience for any of these methods, you can also cook the salmon straight from frozen, but it requires cooking it in a certain way for the best results.
First, cover and roast your salmon for about 5 minutes at high heat. This will steam the salmon as it thaws which helps to retain moisture so it doesn’t dry out during cooking. After 5 minutes, uncover the salmon and cook for a further 5-8 minutes. And voila!
Factors to Consider Before Freezing
Is it fresh?
You should always try to buy the freshest salmon available if you’re planning on freezing it. Farmed salmon will be a light pink color when it’s most fresh, whereas wild-caught salmon (for example, Chinook or sockeye salmon) will be a darker pink.
Avoid fillets with noticeable gray areas or brown spots, slimy skin, or an excessively fishy smell. When it comes to knowing if fish has gone bad, use your common sense - if it looks off, it’s probably off, and it’s always best not to take the risk.
How was it cooked?
Poaching, steaming, smoking, or grilling your salmon is the best way to cook it before freezing.
Using multiple ingredients to cook salmon can be hugely beneficial in terms of flavor if you’re planning on eating it the same day, but is less ideal when it comes to freezing it because the typical ingredients used to cook salmon contain acids and enzymes.
Whether you like a simple slice of lemon on top or prefer to cook it with sauces and condiments to compliment the salmon, it’s best to skip these steps if you’re planning on freezing the leftovers, as it freezes best when it’s cooked with minimal additional ingredients.
Is there space in your freezer?
For best results, you should store your salmon at the bottom of your freezer drawer or up against one of the sides, so make sure you have enough room in your freezer!
If you squeeze it in anywhere, there’s more chance that water will seep out of the salmon due to its high water content. This can cause crystallization which means your fish will be soggier when you defrost it, ruining the flakey texture.
You can use this salmon in many different ways. For example, you can mash and shape it into fishcakes, purée it to make a salmon paste which can be spread on anything, or add it to soups or curries at the last minute.
Freezing already cooked salmon is therefore a really versatile way of always having the option to incorporate it into a number of different dishes.
So there you have it, all you need to know about how to freeze and defrost pre-cooked salmon for a healthy Omega-3 boost, whenever you need it. No more stressing about how to store it and no more wasting perfectly good salmon. Enjoy!