I recently bought a package of frozen cod that contains about 6 pieces. How do you go about properly defrosting them? Thanks.


5 Answers 5


There are two safe ways to defrost, one more rapid than the other.

First method is to defrost in the refrigerator. This keeps temperature below 40 degrees F, in the safe zone. This will, also, take a while.

Second method is to defrost in the sink under cold running water. The water doesn't have to run rapidly, but it should change regularly. This will defrost the fish more rapidly than in the air (water is a better conductor of heat than air) and will keep the fish in the danger zone for the shortest period of time. If you are not going to cook it immediately, then return to the refrigerator.

If you are deep frying, there are some techniques that will allow you to go direct from frozen to fried, but that is generally done in a professional kitchen where they have powerful fryers that can take the temperature hit and come back strong.

  • This is also a great site for a BUNCH of different options in addition to Doug's suggestion. foodsubs.com/Defrost.html
    – FoodTasted
    Commented Nov 27, 2010 at 20:29
  • In the fridge is always best, but you need to plan ahead properly :-) Otherwise what's wrong with leaving it on the bench? It's still covered etc. It's not being fiddled with by unwashed hands etc. Most countries in the world don't have the water and energy to spare to be running the tap for any length of time. If free-flow'ish they should be defrosted enough for cooking in a couple of hours
    – TFD
    Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 10:49
  • Instead of holding it under running water (which wastes a lot of water), you can put it in a bowl of water. I was taught to change out the water a few times, but I don't know why. Commented May 27, 2013 at 1:24
  • Yes, Monica, that's the idea. The changing of the water is because if water doesn't move (as in a bowl) the water next to the fish gets colder quickly but the water further away from the fish doesn't, meaning the heat is transferred more slowly and defrosting takes longer. It's the same principle as a convection oven. The goal is a steady slow stream, which wastes very little water. Streaming into a bowl in the sink works also if you are really concerned about using minimal water, although the refrigerator defrost uses the least amount. Speed vs waste. Tradeoffs happen. Commented May 28, 2013 at 11:00
  • This is not quite correct: there are four recognized safe ways to defrost. The two listed above are the most frequently used, but the full list is: 1) In the refrigerator; 2) As part of the cooking process; 3) In the microwave; 4) Under cool running water.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Sep 21, 2013 at 5:47

From the FDA website:

Thaw frozen seafood gradually by placing it in the refrigerator overnight. If you have to thaw seafood quickly, either seal it in a plastic bag and immerse it in cold water or — if the food will be cooked immediately thereafter — microwave it on the “defrost” setting and stop the defrost cycle while the fish is still icy but pliable.


Defrosting quick frozen fish in fridge is the most recognized way but far from the best. Quick-frozen fish (or any food) is frozen in a short time which means that the ice crystals will be very small which is most important to preserve the quality of fish.

The risk to miss this quality happens when you start to defrost the fish. Doing it very slowly as by keeping the fish in fridge overnight means that this slow defrosting process creates big ice crystals in the fish meat; loss of valuable protein and liquid and fish becomes dryer and less tasty.

Therefore the main matter in defrosting is very simple. As it is beneficial to freeze quickly, the same goes with defrosting. Therefore for best result: Defrost in water 18 - 20 C in sink or in a big ball. Defrosting will take less the one hour and it is not necessary to use running water; the cold water nearest to fish will move by itself.

  • Running water may not be necessary but is prudent, and for any commercial kitchen, at least where I live, it is required by code.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Sep 21, 2013 at 13:02

I have a little to share based on my experience as a restaurant owner, there are 5 ways to thaw the fish properly and safely.

  1. Place it in the refrigerator, this slows down the icy crystals inside the fish.
  2. Put it in a running water, cold preferably, to maintain the toughness of the meat.
  3. Cut the fish to desired size before cooking for a couple of minutes.
  4. Thaw the fish by salting more faster than the rest of the methods.
  5. Place it in a sealed bag then thaw it in a bowl of water.

What about laying frozen cod on a sheet tray at room temp, to prevent waste of water and needing faster than in fridge? Isn't thawing anything at room temp, as long as it's put away before hitting danger zone, natural thawing?

  • 2
    It's not clear to me that this is an attempt to answer the question. Anyhow, thawing at room temperature, it is next to impossible that the fish would be completely thawed before the exterior of the fish has hit the danger zone (4°C/40°F). Remember that no portion of the fish should remain in the danger zone for more than two hours. Commented May 27, 2014 at 20:42
  • Unsafe per Chris' comment.
    – Preston
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 2:06
  • I think this was probably an attempt to answer, albeit not the most confident (or correct) one - I think it's fine to have it here with the downvotes and demonstrate that we think it's a bad idea!
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 6:42

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