Years of experience have taught me techniques that can keep fish as fresh as possible for as long as possible. There are procedures that can be taken to ensure your fish filets don’t wind up tasting “fishy” when they could be delicious with just a little care!
The first step starts right from the beginning – upon the catch. Depending on the variety of fish, it is a good idea to bleed it out. Just as a hunter bleeds out a deer to keep it from tasting “gamey”, it is the blood in the meat of the fish that makes it taste “fishy.” Some fish are bloodier and/or oilier than others. Kingfish is a good example of a fish that has a reputation for being poor food quality, but in actuality can be quite delicious! When we catch kingfish, we slit the throat immediately then bleed it out in the water until it is as clean as possible. Then it immediately goes on ice. This simple step is probably the most important, but most often overlooked.
Next, when fileting your fish, take care to rinse each filet as you cut them out. This first rinse gets rid of the lingering fresh blood and gives you an opportunity to check for any bones you may have missed. Immediately put the filets in a large bowl of ice water. Keep the filets in that ice water as you continue cleaning the rest of your fish.
Once you have all your fish cleaned, take the filets out of the ice water they’ve been sitting in. You’ll see it’s pink and murky. That’s even more blood and oil seeping out of the meat. At this point you may even take care to hand-rinse each filet again, then place them back in a large bowl of ice water. Place in the refrigerator and leave overnight.
The next day, change the water again. Depending on how soon you are going to cook the fish, you can keep changing the water daily until you prepare it, or now it’s time to freeze it. You’ll see now that even fish that tend to have filets that are grayer in color are now looking nice and white! Here’s the most important part to freezing fish: Fill the Ziploc bag with clean water along with the filets. Freezing locks whatever blood and oil remains right into the filet, and the longer it’s frozen before cooking (or ESPECIALLY if it has been thawed and then frozen again!), it will taste fishier. By adding water to the bag, you’re giving the blood a different area to “lock” into. Then as it thaws, it will continue to seep out into the water instead of staying in the filet. (PS – remember to write on the bag what kind of fish it is and the date it was caught! It all looks the same once it’s frozen in water!)
Fish doesn’t thaw very fast, so make sure you take your fish out well ahead of time that you’d like to eat it. Let it thaw naturally; do NOT defrost in the microwave as that bakes in the fishy taste. As the fish thaws, keep changing the water. Once it has thawed, hand-rinse the filets one last time. Before preparing, cut out any darker seams/veins that may be in the filet. Those dark areas are the fishy-tasting bites, so just cut them out and feed the neighborhood alley cat!
This may seem like a lot, but it’s basically just changing out the water frequently. Between bleeding it out upon catch and properly cleaning/unthawing it, you can have a great-tasting dinner long after your sunburn has faded away!