Store Seafood

Storing seafood need not be a tricky affair. Although seafood has a reputation for being particularly disastrous if not stored properly, storing your seafood is simple enough, and requires consideration both of the seafood in question, and the other contents of your refrigerator. Whether you are storing your seafood in the freezer, the fridge, storing live seafood, or storing leftovers, following simple protocols will help keep your food fresh and safe.


Storing in the Freezer

  1. Transport your fish home in a freezer bag. Even if your home is only 5 minutes away from your local grocer, use a freezer bag to keep your frozen seafood safe, rather than letting it sit in your car in a regular plastic or cloth grocery bag. Even ten minutes of thawing can render fish unsafe.[1]
    • If your storage bag has been sitting in a warm car, make sure you pick up some ice or another method of keeping items cold.
  2. Check packaging for tears or holes. Before placing your fish in the freezer, check the packaging it came in. If you find any holes or tears, wrap your fish in wax paper or foil to preserve flavor and moisture.[2]
    • Direct exposure to the frigid temperatures of a freezer can cause dryness and freezer burn. Do not skip this step to ensure high-quality, tender fish.
  3. Place seafood on the lowest shelf possible. Rather than storing seafood on the middle or top shelves, store it away from other items in the freezer, preferably on the lowest shelf. Although frozen fish should not be dripping juice or sauce, storing fish away from other foods avoids the risk of cross-contamination.
  4. Once thawed, do not refreeze. Once you have thawed your fish, avoid placing it back in the freezer. Instead, use your fish immediately. If you cannot cook it right away, you can place it in a crockpot or other slow-cooking tool and come back to it later. This is partly due to taste (re-frozen fish tends to have a dry texture and loss of flavor), and partly due to safety, as the thawing process may have allowed bacteria to grow.[3]

Storing in the Fridge

  1. Wrap your fish tightly in wax paper, plastic wrap, or foil. To keep in freshness, it is best to have a tight wrapping around the fish, rather than placing it into a large container. Wrapping will help seal in moisture and flavor, while placing in a larger tin or container may cause the fish to dry out.[4]
  2. Keep fresh fish on ice. Although a freezer is too cold for fresh fish, a refrigerator is often too warm an environment. The solution is to place your fish on ice (directly, or still wrapped) inside of the fridge. As the ice melts, you’ll need to drain it, so keep this in mind when choosing a storage method.[5]
    • When you purchase fresh fish, it should be in a similar configuration: over ice, in a sealed container. If your fresh fish is not stored properly prior to purchasing it, skip it.
    • Sort through shellfish, and throw away any with cracked or broken shells, as they may have been contaminated.
  3. Seal your storage containers. Once your fish has been wrapped (if flesh is exposed) and properly covered in ice, seal the container you’ve placed them in. This will help maintain freshness and discourage bacterial growth.
  4. Drain melted ice periodically. Because your fish should not be placed into water, make sure you remove any melted ice during the storage period. You can place the ice in a colander, then place the colander into a bowl, or you can place your ice into a plastic bag for easy clean-up.[6]
  5. Cook fresh fish within 2 days. Fresh fish can spoil quickly and easily, so use whatever fresh fish you have within 2 days of catching or purchase. If you cannot get to it within that time frame, cook it and store the cooked fish, which will last a bit longer, and will not run as high a risk of spoiling.[7]
    • If you cannot get to your fresh fish within two days, follow the freezing recommendations to salvage the fish you’ve not gotten to.

Storing Live Seafood

  1. Avoid fresh water. Seafood does not live in fresh water, and will not survive in it. Do not store live seafood such as a lobster in fresh water. You run the risk of killing the creature and ruining the meat.[8]
    • Live seafood does require some moisture, but instead of placing water in your storage container, place damp paper towels or even moist seaweed in the container. This will provide additional moisture without risking the creatures’ lives.
  2. Store in an open container. Unlike already-deceased fish, you want to store live seafood in an open container to facilitate oxygen circulation. A sealed container cuts off oxygen, and will kill your dinner well before you’ve had a chance to cook it. Whether you use a cardboard box, an open cooler, or a paper bag, make sure your live seafood has a means of getting air.[9]
    • If the prospect of having a lobster in an open container makes you uncomfortable, you can also place live seafood into a cardboard box and cut holes in the top.
  3. Keep your seafood cool using a fridge or cooler. Although bacteria will not accumulate on live seafood, seafood is accustomed to cold temperatures. To thrive, live seafood does best in temperatures under 40 degrees F (4.44 C). To make sure your seafood is not harmed, place a thermometer in your fridge and make sure it reads less than 40 degrees F (4.44 C).
    • Most refrigerators are set to temperatures below 40 degrees F (4.44 C). If this is the case with your fridge, a temporary solution such as an ice-filled sink, or ice-filled cooler will work.
  4. Do not freeze. Live seafood is sold that way for a reason. Avoid the temptation to freeze the critters you are set to imbibe, and keep them alive and healthy until the time to cook them has arrived. Freezers are best for already-frozen fish and seafood, as the packaging and freezing method have been tailored to keep these items fresh and moist.
  5. Cook the same day. Live seafood is not meant to be kept for extended periods. If you know you are not going to be able to get too cooking one day, save lobster for another time. You cannot effectively store live seafood for extended periods.[10]
    • Although some seafood can last for 2-3 days after purchase, you will experience the best taste and texture if your seafood is eaten the same day as it is purchased.

Storing Leftovers

  1. Store in airtight containers. As with fresh fish, store your leftovers in airtight containers to prevent the growth of bacteria and limit the risk of cross-contamination.
  2. Refrigerate within 2 hours of cooking. Even cooked fish should be handled carefully, and should be left out no longer than 2 hours after being cooked. The longer food is left out after cooking, the higher the risk is of bacteria developing and growing. If you have left food out past this time frame, the safest option is to throw the food away.[11]
  3. Avoid temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F (4.44-60 C). This temperature range is often called the “danger zone,” as it provides the ideal breeding ground for germs and bacteria. When storing your leftovers, make sure your fridge is set to a temperature below 40, and while cooking, make sure your oven has reached a temperature higher than 140.
  4. Store seafood separately from other foods. If you’ve made a dinner of fish and broccoli, for instance, store each in their own container. Fish goes dry and rancid faster than most vegetables, grains, and even other meats. Whenever possible, store fish with fat or marinades intact.
  5. Eat within 2-3 days. Ideally, you should consume your leftover fish within 1-2 days. Any longer, and your fish may become dry or develop a slimy covering. Fish that has gone beyond this window should be thrown out.[12]


  • Before purchasing seafood, plan ahead to avoid wasting any of your purchases.
  • If you know you’ll be purchasing fish, have the necessary containers and supplies ready to go before you arrive home.
  • Keep a freezer storage bag by the door to lessen the risk of forgetting it on your way.
  • Purchase frozen seafood last. If you purchase frozen seafood, place it in your cart for checkout after you have chosen everything else to keep it cool longer.
  • You can ask your grocery store or fish supplier for ice to take home with you; that way, you’ll have ice for storing and your fish will stay cold on the way home.


  • Food safety should be taken very seriously to prevent getting ill. Do not take shortcuts or use old or improperly-stored fish.
  • Do not store seafood in water.

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