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How to Defrost Salmon So It Thaws in Time for Dinner
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

How do we love thee, salmon? Let us count the ways: You’re healthy, delicious and you can be on the table and ready to devour in less than 30 minutes. Well, if we remember to take you out of the freezer, that is. (Oops.) Don’t worry: Your meal can still be saved. Read on to find out how to defrost salmon so it thaws in time for dinner. But first...

The Best Way to Freeze Salmon

The better job you do freezing the salmon in the first place, the easier it will be to defrost. Luckily, the process is simple:

Step 1: Unwrap and rinse the salmon. Be sure to thoroughly pat it dry as well. 

Step 2: Wrap it tightly in plastic. Then, place it in an airtight container or freezer bag and find a spot for it in the freezer. Once your fish is thawed, it's ready to be broiled, grilled, fried or baked.

The Best Ways to Defrost Salmon, Depending on How Much Time You Have

The Best Way to Thaw Salmon...If You Have 12 Hours Before Dinnertime

This one takes the most planning—which, to be honest, means that it’s the method we use the least. But if you’re more organized than we are, here’s what to do:

Step 1: Take your fish out of the freezer approximately 12 hours before you plan on cooking it. Leave the fish in its bag or plastic wrapping and place it in the fridge on a shallow plate or in a bowl to catch any liquid. (No one likes a fishy refrigerator.)

Step 2: Wait. Expect cuts of salmon up to a pound to be thawed in approximately 12 hours, while heavier fillets will need closer to 24 hours. 

The Best Way to Thaw Salmon...If You Have an Hour Before Dinnertime

We like this water-submersion method the best for its efficiency (get started on the roasted vegetables while you wait) and results (no dryness to speak of). 

Step 1: Fill a large pot with cold water. Place the fish in a leak-proof bag and submerge it in the pot, weighing it down if needed.

Step 2: Empty the pot and refill it with fresh water every ten minutes. Check the fish periodically by pushing the middle of each fillet—it should feel slightly soft and the fish should be flexible (this can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes). 

The Best Way to Thaw Salmon...If You Have 5 Minutes Before Dinnertime

If you’re really strapped for time, microwaving the fish will thaw it quickly. Just keep in mind that its flavor and texture might be affected.

Step 1: Figure out approximately how much your fish weighs. Then, choose the “defrost” setting on your microwave and enter the weight. 

Step 2: Check the fish often and stop defrosting when it's flexible but still cold. After all, you don’t want to actually cook the fish just yet. Using the microwave will take about six to eight minutes per pound of fish.

P.S.: You can also cook your fish without defrosting it at all—just know that it will take about one and a half times as long and the texture or quality of the fish may change. 

How Long Does Frozen Salmon Last?

According to the USDA, any frozen fish or shellfish will stay safe indefinitely in the freezer, although its flavor and texture will deteriorate over time. Raw frozen salmon should be used in three to eight months, while cooked frozen salmon will only last three. 

Can I Refreeze Salmon Once It's Thawed?

You remembered to defrost the salmon...but then ended up having pizza for dinner instead. (Respect.) So, can it go back in the freezer? The answer is yes—with conditions. According to the USDA, it's safe to refreeze raw meat, poultry or fish as long as it was thawed in the refrigerator. Any foods left outside the fridge for more than two hours (or one hour in hotter temperatures) shouldn't be refrozen. Once-frozen meat that's been cooked can also be refrozen. 

Ready to cook? Here are seven salmon recipes we love:

RELATED: 50 Easy and Delicious Salmon Recipes

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