Keep wild fish and game tasty, fresh from the freezer
One of the unsung heroes of modern sporting life is the freezer, which allows us to preserve the bounty we’ve harvested to enjoy later on. But there’s more to preserving fish and game than simply dumping it into the freezer.
First, you need to properly clean what you plan to freeze, then take measures to prevent freezer burn, which ruins the taste and texture. To help ensure your frozen fish and game remain as tasty as possible—not to mention safe to eat—follow these basic procedures.
Carefully clean meat and fish of any blood or viscera, as well as dirt or anything else it may have come into contact with. If rinsing with water, be mindful of spreading bacteria to kitchen surfaces.
Next, thoroughly dry the meat or fish with paper towel to remove any exterior moisture, which can promote freezer burn (see next section). And unless you’re planning a massive feast, divide your harvest into meal-sized portions. With fish fillets, consider leaving the skin on for an extra layer of protection.
The bane of frozen food is freezer burn, which happens when exposure to cold, dry air causes moisture to evaporate, leaving behind telltale ice crystals and leathery, bleached-looking spots. The best way to prevent this is to use a vacuum sealer, which mechanically sucks out air, and thus moisture. Sealers are very good, but not perfect—especially after years of hard use—so always double check the seal. The next best technique for protecting your fish or game is to tightly wrap it in a double layer of freezer-specific cling wrap (ordinary plastic wrap is actually slightly water- and air-permeable). Then place the wrapped package in a freezer-specific resealable bag, and carefully squeeze out as much air as possible when closing it. Remember to label and date the contents. Ideally, lay packages flat to freeze, which is the most effect use of space; it will also help them defrost quicker.
Food experts generally agree that properly wrapped and frozen fish and game should hold their freshness for three to six months, and up to a year if vacuum sealed. When defrosting, slower is better. Ideally, thaw wild protein in the fridge for a day or two, depending on the size and cut of the pieces. For a quicker thaw, you can immerse the package in cold water. Finally, it’s important to know that freezing causes bacteria to hibernate, but it doesn’t kill it. So once fish and game are thawed, they should be cooked immediately.