Can you cook fish from frozen | is thawing required for juiciness and safety

frozen fish sardines cooking from frozen
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Fresh fish is always best. But, sometimes you have no choice but to freeze the fish for later preparation and consumption. The question I get asked often is: Can you cook fish straight from the freezer, or do you have to thaw it first?

Frozen fish does not have to be thawed before cooking. You can always cook them straight from the freezer. Additional cooking time will be required to cook frozen fish. Keep in mind that frozen fish must be cooked to the proper internal temperature before serving. But, frozen fish can be boiled, baked, poached, steamed, or grilled straight from the freezer.

Can you cook fish from frozen without defrosting

The answer is yes. All fish can be prepared directly from the freezer by a variety of methods. As with all frozen meats, poultry or fish, you should extend the cooking time to ensure that the fish has reached the proper internal temperature. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises that the right internal temperature for fish and shellfish is 145 °F (62.8 °C).

Furthermore, safe handling and cooking methods should be adopted to ensure that no foodborne illnesses develop during the cooking time. This includes washing all surfaces to be used as well as washing hands before handling any frozen meat, poultry, or fish products.

If you want to find out which foods can you cook from frozen, check out my post where I cover all the foods in detail.

Defrosting tray to speed up your thawing process

But if you want to thaw your fish first and speed things then this defrosting tray will come in handy. This tray can actually thaw the meat 8x faster than natural thawing. This is one of the best ones on amazon.

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Can all fish be cooked from frozen

Yes, all fish can be cooked from frozen, but it is better to thaw them if you are cooking larger pieces.

Even when it comes to fish products, it is OK to cook them from frozen. Here is a quick table for easy navigation:

Can you cook fish from frozen 
Battered fishYes
Fish fingersYes
Breaded fishYes
Fish cakesYes
Fish filletsYes
Fish goujonsYes
Fish ballsYes
Fish sticksYes
Alaska pollockYes

Is it safe to cook and eat fish from frozen without thawing

Yes, it is safe to cook and eat fish from frozen. I usually buy lots of sardines and freeze them. I don’t bother with thawing and simply throw them in hot olive oil strait from the freezer. The result is always perfect. Here is my post on how to freeze sardines

There are a few important steps to follow when cooking fish from frozen. Firstly, ensure that the fish does not have an overly fishy odor. This may include a sour, rancid, or ammonia odor, which clearly indicates that the fish has gone bad. 

Additionally, never purchase frozen fish if the package is damaged in any way. When cooking frozen fish, remove the fish from the freezer and then remove it from its packaging. There may be an accumulation of ice or frost on the fish. Simply place it under cold running water to remove any ice or frost. Pat and dry the fish and proceed to prepare it using the chosen cooking method.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises on specific safety precautions to prevent contaminated fish from spreading to other food items. Precautions include, amongst others, using a sanitizer when preparing frozen fish, as well as discarding any seafood that has been sitting out for more than two hours.

Is it better to cook fish from frozen or thawed

In some cases, it is better to cook fish if the fish has been thawed first. In other cases, it is best to cook the fish from frozen. This will also depend, as mentioned, on the size of the fish. 

Smaller fish have smaller cells. This means that smaller ice crystals will form on the fish. As a result, there will be less damage done to the flesh of the fish during the thawing process. Thinner cuts of fish, such as flounder, are perfectly fine to thaw before cooking and will taste great. 

On the other hand, for thicker, more meatier fish, like salmon, cod, or swordfish, which have larger cells, and where larger ice crystals may from, thawing may actually cause more damage and alter the taste of the fish. It is best to cook these types of fish when freshly bought or straight from the freezer.

For larger, flakier, and more meatier fish, the ice crystals will rupture during the thawing process, causing the fish to become mushy at the same time. 

Additionally, when thawing is done too quickly, it will end up changing the cell structure of the fish and making it mushy and tasteless. If you are going to thaw the fish in water, make sure that the water does not reach room temperature in the process. This will be a hot bed for bacteria to develop and thrive in the fish. Both the USDA and the FDA agree on this fact.

Can you cook breaded fish from frozen

Yes, it is best to cook frozen breaded fish straight from the freezer. Frozen breaded fish has already been cooked. The cooking process is simply to get the breading crispy and to allow the fish to reach the right internal temperature.

The best method to cook frozen breaded fish is in a deep fryer, in the oven, or in an air fryer. When using a conventional oven, preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C). Place the fish on a baking tray that has been greased and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the breading is crisp.

Can you cook fish from frozen in a pan

No, it is best to thaw the fish if you intend on cooking the fish in a pan. Cod, for example, is a great fish to have in the freezer. I would not recommend that you pan fry cod while it is still frozen. 

The fish will cook unevenly and often become tough during the cooking process, making it inedible. It is best to thaw the fish in the refrigerator overnight. 

This applies to most fish if you think of cooking them in a pan. There are other cooking methods that are better suited to cooking frozen fish.

Can you cook fish frozen in an air fryer

Yes. Take black sea bass, for example. This fish is known for its flaky texture and the fact that it tastes great with any seasoning. 

You can cook almost all fish from frozen in an air fryer and the best part is that there is no grease or oil involved in the cooking process. This makes cooking fish from frozen in an air fryer a great option. 

The only challenge is the size of the fish or the size of the air fryer.

The air fryer can handle both fresh and breaded fish effortlessly.

Can you cook fish from frozen in the oven

Yes, the oven is another great option for cooking frozen fish. Tilapia is a great example of a fish that can easily be cooked from frozen in the oven. This fish is lean and has a sweet, mild taste. It has a medium, firm, flaky texture. You can easily bake Tilapia and all other fish in the oven.

It will take approximately 20 to 25 minutes to cook fresh fish in the oven. For frozen fish, allow additional cooking time. The fish is ready when it has turned white and can easily be flaked with a fork.

Can you cook fish from frozen in the microwave

The short answer is no. There are several reasons for this. Fish generally have a specific taste and texture. Cooking frozen fish in the microwave means that the fish will cook unevenly and the taste and texture will be altered. It may become mushy, tough, or spongy, depending on the type of fish.

Can you cook fish from frozen in the slow cooker

No. If the fish is cooked from 0°F (-17°C)it will take too long to come up to the proper internal temperature. This cooking process will place fish in what is referred to as the danger zone. This is a temperature range that makes it ideal for bacteria to form. Therefore, fish prepared in a slow cooker will not be considered safe to consume. The slow cooker should be avoided when cooking any meat, poultry, or fish from frozen.


Fish can safely be cooked straight from the freezer, provided that the correct cooking method is used. Furthermore, the correct storage and food handling methods should be adopted before attempting to cook frozen fish. This will prevent any food borne illnesses from developing during the process. Always remember to cook fish at the correct internal temperature. Check the temperature of the fish after cooking by placing a thermometer in the thickest part of the fish.


I am a kind of person that would sneak a taste out of grandma’s pot when I was barely tall enough to reach it. I grew up in kitchens full of love and liveliness and have spent my whole live learning, experimenting and succeeding in the art of cooking. At Pro Family Chef, every day is an opportunity for a new meal and a brand new flavor. I created this website to connect people that love to cook, with the products designed to make their cooking easier, hassle-free and rewarding every time.

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