How to CookSalmon

How to Defrost Your Fish Faster (and Things to Do While You Wait)

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How to defrost frozen fish in as little as 20 minutes—and keep yourself occupied in the meantime.

Because cooked salmon is a lot more appetizing than frozen salmon.

Before I left the house this morning, I repeated the mantra, "Take the salmon out of the freezer. Take the salmon out of the freezer," but over the course of the morning, it got drowned out by other mantras ("Feed the cat. Comb your hair. Drink coffee now.") and by the time I realized I'd left my dinner plans in an icy vortex, I was already on the subway. While I'd like to blame Monday for my reckless fish abandonment, I've made the same mistake far too often to be able to place the onus on a day of the week.


I knew what to do: Once I returned home, I fell back on a time-honored tradition known as thaw the fish as quickly as possible. Here's how to do it, and feel free to replace "fish" with your protein of choice—this method works for all manner of frozen-solid meats:

  1. Remove the fish from its packaging and place it into a resealable zip-top bag. Push all the air out, secure the zipper, and place it in a bowl that fits the entire fish and bag.
  2. Place the bowl in your sink under cool running water (keeping the water under 40° F is key here—any warmer can encourage bacteria growth). If the fish floats, weigh it down to submerge it—I find that a jar of peanut butter works swimmingly for this task.
  3. Replace the water every 10 minutes until the fish has thawed, or keep the water running at a very slow rate. (Depending on the size of your fish, this method should take anywhere between 20 minutes to 1 hour.)
  4. Remove the fish from the water (and bag) and cook immediately.

If you're anything like me, waiting 20 to 60 minutes can feel like an eternity when you're hungry. Here are some things to occupy you (see if you can guess which one I did):

  1. Take a yoga class on your smart phone. (This app even lets you choose classes by duration, so you can choose any time between 20 minutes to 1 hour. It's like they knew!) 
  2. Make use of the free oven time to make dessert—these hand pies bake in just 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch an episode of Downton Abbey with your cat.
  4. If your living mate does not have paws (no judgment here), play a round of cards—snacks welcome.
  5. Catch up on short films. Here's a great place to watch films that are just 2 to 30 minutes in length.
  6. Write a post for Food52 on defrosting fish.

What's your favorite method for defrosting dinner in a flash? How do you distract yourself from hanger? Tell us in the comments below!

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: Seafood, Weeknight Cooking, Tips & Techniques