If you want food items to last long, one solution is to freeze them. So, if you have plenty of smoked salmon and you want to extend its shelf life, can you freeze smoked salmon, too?
Just like most of everything else, you can freeze smoked salmon. However, you’ll need to consider a couple of factors to properly freeze it, including whether you smoked the salmon yourself or bought it from the grocery store and if your salmon has herbs in it.
To help you out, we’ll discuss how you can freeze and defrost smoked salmon and the things you need to consider when freezing cooked fish. We’ll also tackle some common questions regarding freezing smoked salmon, including how to tell if your salmon has gone bad.
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What Is Smoked Salmon?
As you can guess by its name, smoked salmon is salmon that has been treated with smoke from particular firewood. Usually, alder or beech, or maple wood is used to smoke salmon to give it the smokey flavor or to preserve it better.
But before being smoked, there are a few other steps to follow to get smoked salmon.
How Salmon Gets Smoked: A Step-by-Step Process
Let’s look at the process of smoking salmon – from being caught right to its finished form.
- Immediately after fresh salmon have been caught, they’re cleaned and their organs are removed before being frozen right on the fishing boat.
- Next, they are taken to a smoking workshop where the salmon is thawed for 15 hours with 36°F (2°C) cold water. Thawing the salmon in cold water prevents any bacteria to form in the fish.
- Now comes the part where the head, tail, and bone are removed and fish fillets are made.
- The scales, fins, rest of the bones, and extra fat are removed in this step of the process.
- When the fish fillets are clean, they are sprinkled with spices and salt and marinated for an hour and a half. The marination time ensures that the salt doesn’t penetrate more than 1% inside the fish meat.
- After marination, the salmon meat is washed in cold water. At this stage, maple syrup is applied to the surface of the fish to minimize the fish smell.
- A thorough rinse is given to the fillets to wash away excess salt.
- The salmon is now dried and ready to be sent to the smoking room.
- In the smoking oven, the salmon fillets are placed in the chamber and treated to smoke for 16 hours.
- After the fire is put out, low-temperature smoking is carried on for at least 24 hours.
- Smoked salmon is then vacuum-packed and frozen at-31°F (-35 °C) within an hour to prevent any contamination.
Types of Smoked Salmon
It’s good to know the types of salmon you can buy from the store. But before we get into it, let’s talk a bit about smoked salmon versus cured salmon.
Simply put, cured salmon is salmon that has not been smoked. Therefore, you won’t get an earthy, smokey flavor from it.
Types of cured salmon include lox and gravlax. Lox has the same texture as smoked salmon but lacks the smokiness. Plus, it will taste saltier too.
Gravlax is cured but with plenty of other ingredients besides only salt. Herbs, sugar, spices, and even some aromatic spirits are used to cure gravlax.
Coming back to the types of smoked salmon. There are only two types – hot-smoked salmon and cold-smoked salmon.
The temperature difference in the smoke makes it either hot-smoked or cold-smoked salmon.
When salmon is hot-smoked, the temperature of the smoking chamber is a minimum of 145°F (63°C). The hot smoking duration is at least 30 minutes.
For cold smoking salmon, the temperature is between 50°F – 90°F (10°C and 32°C) and the smoking time is between 20 and 24 hours.
There’s a difference between how hot-smoked and cold-smoked salmon tastes.
It’s easier to break hot-smoked salmon and it tastes better. Cold-smoked salmon tastes lighter and has a smooth texture.
Health Benefits of Smoked Salmon
If you’re not eating smoked salmon, it might be time to add this healthy food into your diet. Smoked Salmon contains many nutrients and vitamins that will boost the quality of life for both yourself as well as those around ya!
If You Can Freeze Most Food, Can You Freeze Smoked Salmon?
As mentioned before, you can freeze smoked salmon. However, you’ll need to factor in a few things like whether you’re freezing home-smoked salmon or a store-bought one, an opened pack or a sealed pack, and whether or not the salmon contains other ingredients.
Additionally, you’ll need to ensure that the smoked salmon freezes nicely. For example, smoked salmon with plenty of fat content won’t do well to freezing, and the same will happen to salmon with watery ingredients like cream.
Lastly, you’ll need to consider how you’ll pack the salmon, too, and where you’ll store it.
When Can You Freeze Smoked Salmon?
You can freeze smoked salmon whenever you need it frozen, but you need to make sure that your salmon has pure and even colors and is free from greasy spots or oil deposits in its package.
Homogenous colors in salmon ensure the quality and freshness of your fish. Meanwhile, greasy spots in a store-bought smoked salmon mean it wasn’t packed properly.
Besides these, you’ll need to know how your salmon was smoked so you can effectively freeze it. Cold smoked salmon and hot smoked salmon can be frozen in their original packaging, while manually sliced salmon can be frozen in a different container.
Things to Consider Before Freezing Smoked Salmon
Homemade vs. Store-Bought Smoked Salmon
If you bought smoked salmon in your local grocery store, you could get away with freezing it straight through its packaging. Of course, it has to have been unopened. Otherwise, store-bought but unsealed smoked salmon will need to be transferred to a different container before you can freeze them.
Meanwhile, if you bought salmon that’s vacuum-packed, ensure that you freeze it as soon as possible. Vacuum-sealed smoked salmon is often stored and transported frozen, so you’ll need to freeze it, too, to ensure it keeps its freshness and flavor.
On the other hand, if you cooked salmon yourself, you’ll need to observe some packaging dos and don’ts. For one, you’ll need to ensure you store the salmon in an airtight container to retain its freshness even when frozen. You’ll also need to divide it into different portions to make the thawing process easier for you.
Salmon Smoking Method
To know if freezing smoked salmon is your best option, you need to consider how the salmon was smoked, too. Is your fish hot smoked or cold smoked?
If you have salmon cooked using the cold smoke method, you’ll actually need to keep your fish frozen until you’re ready to eat it. Cold smoked fish is cooked but still looks raw and wet, so it perishes easily. Hence, it’s best to freeze cold-smoked salmon until consumption.
Meanwhile, if you have hot smoked salmon, you can rest assured it’ll last longer than cold smoked salmon, even without freezing. This is because it was cooked in high heat, which basically killed all of the salmon’s bacteria. Of course, you can still go for a frozen smoked salmon if you want.
Salmon Slicing Method
There’s an exception to freezing smoked fish, and it depends on whether your salmon was manually sliced or mechanically sliced. You can freeze manually sliced salmon, but it’s not recommended to freeze machine sliced smoked salmon.
Mechanically sliced salmon are usually processed while frozen, so you can’t guarantee its quality and that it’ll still retain its flavor once you freeze it again. Meanwhile, manually sliced salmon wouldn’t be cut while frozen, so it’s alright to freeze it and expect it to retain its flavor.
If your salmon is about to expire, freezing it isn’t likely going to extend its shelf life. A smoked salmon’s expiry date guarantees the length a salmon can last before going rancid and losing its flavors, so it’s best to only freeze salmon far from its expiration date.
Keep in mind that generally, you can expect smoked fish to last two weeks in the fridge. So, you can decide to freeze it after a week in the fridge to lengthen its shelf life.
Salmon is known for its delicious buttery fats, but too much of it and improper sealing can ruin your freezing experience. Fats oxidize fast when exposed to air, so improper sealing can ruin your smoked salmon’s flavor even if it’s been frozen.
So, if your store-bought or homemade smoked salmon isn’t properly sealed, transfer it to a different container. And when you’re sealing your smoked salmon, keep as much air out as possible and ensure it’s tightly closed to keep the air out. For best results, you can use a vacuum sealer.
If you have a big batch of smoked salmon to freeze, consider dividing them into smaller portions. This will greatly help you when you’re thawing your fish – it’s better to thaw small portions that you’ll eat for the day than thaw a big portion and then refreeze the amount you won’t eat.
Smoked salmon will stay fresh and retain its flavor if you freeze it right, but its accompanying ingredients may not do the same. Let’s discuss common ingredients in salmon dishes and see if they affect your freezing process.
Fats and Creams
As mentioned earlier, fats and creams don’t do well when frozen – they separate into two layers when you freeze them. So, it’s best not to freeze smoked salmon with watery or fatty additives. You can always add creams or sauces to your salmon once you thaw it and prepare it for consumption.
If your smoked fish’s crunchy vegetable ingredients are already cooked, freezing them should be alright. However, if you freeze them while they’re fresh, don’t expect them to retain their texture once thawed.
Additionally, expect some of the vegetables’ water content to get into your smoked salmon and alter its taste and texture, especially if you don’t defrost it properly.
Try not to add herbs to your smoked fish before freezing it. Herbs hold up well when frozen, but it’s still best to add them to your salmon when you’re about to eat it instead. That way, you’ll enjoy fresh and flavorful herbs with your salmon.
How to Properly Freeze Smoked Salmon
If you simply toss your smoked salmon in the freezer, don’t expect it to retain its flavor and texture unless it was frozen in its original and unsealed packaging. To properly freeze smoked salmon, you need to:
- Slice the salmon before freezing, if you have big chunks of smoked salmon. This will make thawing easier for you and eliminate the need to thaw, refreeze, and rethaw.
- Use parchment paper to separate salmon slices if you have multiple pieces. You can also use separate plastic wraps, but parchment paper is more economical and convenient.
- Use two layers of parchment paper or cling wrap for each portion of salmon, and then place the portions in a freeze paper or an airtight container. This guarantees a nice seal to help your smoked salmon keep its flavor.
- You may also use freezer bags to tightly seal the salmon. Alternatively, you can opt for airtight containers that aren’t too big or too small for your salmon portions.
- However, if you’re lucky enough to have a vacuum sealer, you can just vacuum seal your smoked salmon and be done with the freezing preparation process.
- Once you’re done packing your smoked salmon portions, don’t forget to add the date outside your container or bag. It should help you note if the fish is still good or not and keep track of how long it’s been in your freezer.
How to Thaw Frozen Smoked Salmon
So, you have a thawed smoked salmon. Next, comes a subsequent problem: how do you thaw smoked salmon? Can you just take it out of the fridge, place it on the counter, and eat it once the ice is off?
You can’t just remove frozen smoked salmon from the freezer and place it straight into the counter. Remember, it’s been frozen. So, when defrosting smoked salmon, you’ll need to follow a little process to ensure the salmon’s flavor and texture aren’t ruined.
Slowly Defrosting Smoked Salmon
As mentioned earlier, you can’t just rush things when thawing smoked salmon from the freezer. Doing so will result in a ruined texture and flavor. And if you leave your fish at room temperature on the counter for too long, your salmon might end up contaminated with bacteria, too.
So, here’s how you can slowly and properly defrost smoked salmon:
- Move the frozen salmon out of the freezer and into the fridge.
- Place a bag or cup of baking soda inside your fridge to absorb the salmon’s fishy smell.
- Take the salmon out after 20+ hours and at around 20 minutes before its preparation.
Remember to never thaw at room temperature because it’ll increase the chances of bacterial contamination and ruin your food’s texture and flavor. And if you can’t wait for a day to defrost smoked salmon, you may also try a faster method, which uses water.
Defrosting Smoked Salmon with Water
Since the first method takes quite a lot of time, you can choose an alternative method instead, which uses cold water to thaw smoked salmon. To do this, you’ll need to:
- Take your desired salmon portions and seal them in a bag.
- You don’t need to do the first step if they’re already in a bag.
- Run the fish under cold water for a few minutes.
- Submerge the frozen salmon in a bag or bowl of cold water.
- Wait for three to four hours for the salmon to thaw.
It might be tempting to use hot or warm water, but do your best not to. Using warm water on frozen fish destroys its texture and increases its chance of bacterial contamination.
How to Tell If Smoked Salmon is Bad
So, what’s the next step after thawing your frozen salmon? You might answer that cooking is the next step, but that’s not the case. Once you’ve defrosted your salmon, it’s time to check if it’s still good, just to be sure.
To tell if smoked salmon has gone bad:
- Check its smell. A rancid or sour fishy odor means your salmon went bad.
- Visually inspect your thawed salmon. If it looks dull and white, it’s bad.
- If you notice a white mucous layer on your fish, mold started to grow there.
And in case you still have questions about freezing smoked salmon, we prepared a handy list of FAQs for you.
How long does smoked salmon last in the fridge?
According to FDA, smoked salmon can last for two weeks in the fridge. Of course, other factors like how you store the salmon in your fridge can change this estimate.
How long can you freeze smoked salmon?
Smoked fish can retain its best quality in the freezer for two months if you properly freeze it. After this, its flavor will start diminishing, but it can continue staying in your freezer for up to three to four months. However, by the third and fourth months, your smoked salmon’s smokiness will start degrading.
Does smoked salmon freeze well?
Smoked salmon does alright in the freezer as long as you ensure you properly pack it.
Can you refreeze smoked salmon?
You can refreeze smoked salmon, but we don’t recommend it. With the exception of buying frozen salmon and then defrosting and smoking it, it’s not really advisable to refreeze smoked salmon. Refreezing will degrade the fish’s quality.
Can you freeze smoked salmon after opening?
If you opened a pack of smoked salmon and decided you wanted to freeze it, you can do so. Just make sure you transfer it to a different container and follow the proper steps to freeze it.
Can you freeze cooked salmon?
You can freeze cooked salmon as long as you package it properly.
How long does smoked salmon last after defrosting?
Smoked salmon lasts for three to four days in the fridge after defrosting it.
Can you freeze smoked salmon slices?
You can freeze smoked salmon slices, but make sure to remove as much air as possible from its container. Remember, exposure to oxygen will change the fish’s flavor.
Can you freeze lox or cured salmon?
You can freeze lox by following the steps for freezing smoked salmon. Once frozen, lox can last for up to three months without losing its quality.
What’s the difference between lox and smoked salmon?
They’re both cooked salmon, but smoked salmon is salmon smoked as a cooking method, while lox is salmon that’s brined but not smoked.
Can you freeze hot or cold smoked salmon?
You can freeze hot smoked salmon and cold smoked salmon. However, know that cold-smoked salmon’s texture may change, while hot smoked salmon’s texture can retain its texture.
What’s the difference between cold and hot smoked salmon?
Cold smoked salmon is cooked at a lower temperature than hot smoked salmon. The former also features a smooth and silky texture, while the latter has a flaky and baked texture.
So, can you freeze smoked salmon? Definitely – as long as you do it right. We hope our handy FAQs sheet and detailed guide on how to freeze smoked salmon and thaw properly helped you out!