How to Thaw Frozen Salmon [3 Easy Options!]

by Charlie
Published: Last Updated on
How to Thaw Frozen Salmon

Fresh salmon is one of the most popular choices when it comes to choosing a fish for the dinner table for lots of reasons. Salmon is chocked-full of important nutrients like protein, all of the B-vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also incredibly versatile. It can be smoked or cured, poached, roasted, grilled, sautéed, baked, or eaten raw. Talk about endless possibilities!

While it is always best to buy fresh salmon from the local fish purveyor or grocery store, sometimes that isn’t always an option. If a friend gave you some the frozen spoils from their Alaskan expedition or the price of fresh fish is a little too high, frozen salmon is an excellent alternative when fresh salmon isn’t available. 

How do you thaw frozen salmon? Frozen salmon can safely be thawed by putting in the refrigerator, soaking in cold water, or defrosting in the microwave.

When it comes to thawing frozen salmon, not all methods are created equal. There are several factors to take into consideration to ensure that the finished product is as delicious and flaky as possible. As always when defrosting frozen proteins, time constraints will determine which option is best for you. 

Food Safety Tips When Thawing Frozen Salmon

When it comes to thawing frozen meat or seafood, it is always critically important to practice safe food handling protocols to prevent any growth of harmful bacteria that may cause a food-borne illness such as washing your hands after handling the fish and making sure to keep the temperature of the salmon under 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Equally important is making sure to prevent any cross-contamination by keeping the product being defrosted tucked safely in a tightly closed zip-top bag resting on a plate or bowl and away from any other ingredients. 

Options for Thawing Frozen Salmon

Frozen salmon is a great option for those trying to incorporate more fish in their diets. There are numerous effective ways to thaw salmon depending on how much time you have prior to cooking.

Thawing Frozen Salmon in the Refrigerator – 12-24 Hours

If you planned dinner ahead of time and have a day to spare, defrosting frozen salmon in the refrigerator is the easiest and best option. Depending on the weight of the salmon being thawed, it should take roughly 12 to 24 hours to be ready to cook. 

To do this, remove the salmon from any original packaging, place it into a large zip-top plastic bag and seal tightly. This will keep the raw fish from spreading any bacteria. Place the bag on a plate or in a bowl and place it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. The temperature should be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the growth of harmful micro-organisms. 

Thawing Frozen Salmon in Cold Water – 1 Hour

If you forgot to move the frozen salmon from the freezer to the refrigerator last night, not to worry. The next option for defrosting frozen salmon is to submerge it in cold water for about an hour. 

For this method, remove the salmon from any original packaging and seal it tightly in a plastic zip-top bag making sure to remove as much air from the bag as possible. Fill a bowl or other container with cold tap water and drop the bagged frozen salmon in. 

Be sure to fully submerge the fish to make sure it thaws evenly. If it floats, weigh it down with a small plate. Every 30 minutes, change the water and check the progress. It should take roughly an hour or so, depending on size and weight, for the salmon to be fully thawed and ready to cook.

Thawing Frozen Salmon in the Microwave – 4-5 Minutes

If you had “one of those days,” and only have 10 minutes before you need to cook dinner, the last resort option is to defrost the frozen salmon in the microwave. While it is never the optimal method for thawing anything that happens to be frozen, it gets the job done. Most defrost and power settings vary greatly from machine to machine, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results when defrosting with a microwave.

Get started by removing the frozen salmon from its original packaging and place it onto a plastic or glass microwave-safe plate or bowl lined with a paper towel. Arrange the salmon on the plate in such a way that the thinnest parts are towards the middle of the plate. This will help it defrost more evenly. 

Time in the microwave is dependent upon the weight of the product, so do whatever the microwave tells you to do as far as time and defrost settings. Regardless of how much time the microwave overlord says, don’t just set it and forget it. Always continually check the progress every 30 to 45 seconds. Generally, this should take about 4-5 minutes. Be sure to cook the salmon immediately. 

Pro Tip: If You Literally Have No Time

It’s actually perfectly safe to go from freezer to pan with frozen salmon. While the end result may not be as good as cooking from fresh, it’s still a perfectly enjoyable end product.

Place the frozen salmon in a baking dish fitted with a lid. By initially baking with the lid on for the first 5 minutes, the steam will help to quickly thaw the fish as it cooks. Finish by removing the lid and roasting at a slightly higher temperature. 

Don’t worry about the white stuff that may appear on the fish. That’s called albumin is just coagulated protein. Cooking straight from frozen may result in a bit more of it than if you cooked from fresh. Its perfectly safe. 

Final Thoughts

  • Whether fresh or frozen, salmon is jam-packed with nutrients and is a delicious and healthy dinner option.
  • Remember to always follow safe food handling practices to prevent food borne illness and cross-contamination.
  • Depending on how much time you have will determine which option for thawing frozen salmon is best.
  • Defrosting overnight in the refrigerator is the easiest but takes the longest.
  • Thawing submerged in water is a great option if you have an hour to spare.
  • Using the microwave to defrost frozen salmon should only be done when no other option is available.
  • Cooking frozen salmon straight from the freezer to the pan is a perfectly safe option.

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