Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know when seafood is done? (Q1)
What is the shelf life of frozen seafood? (Q2)
How long can I keep fresh seafood at home? How long should I keep thawed seafood? (Q3)
How much seafood should I buy? (Q4)
I noticed some crystals in my canned salmon that look like glass. What are they? Is the salmon safe to eat? (Q5)
I have a can of salmon that is dented, can I use it? (Q6)
Can I freeze seafood at home? (Q7)
How should I handle leftover seafood? How long can I store it? (Q8)
My refrigerator or freezer is not working. Is the seafood inside safe to eat? (Q9)


Q1. How do I know when seafood is done?
A. In general, fish is done when its meat just begins to flake. To check for doneness, slip the point of a sharp knife into the fish and pull it slightly apart. The edges should be opaque and the center slightly translucent with the flakes just beginning to separate. Let stand 3-4 minutes to finish cooking. Usually this is just enough time to get the rest of your meal to the table. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests cooking fish until it reaches an internal temperature of 145° F.

If you don't have a thermometer, use the 10-minute rule for cooking fish. Simply measure the fish at its thickest point, then cook it for a total of 10 minutes per inch. If you are grilling, broiling or sautéing, turn the fish halfway through the cooking time. You should add five minutes to the time if you are cooking the fish in foil or if the fish is cooked in a sauce. Increase the cooking time for frozen fish that has not been thawed as well. For specific instructions for cooking frozen fish without thawing see www.cookitfrozen.com.

Q2. What is the shelf life of frozen seafood?
A. Whitefish, such as Alaska halibut, cod, pollock, rockfish and perch can be kept in the freezer at 0°F for six months. Because they have a higher fat content, Alaska salmon and sablefish should be kept in the freezer at 0°F for three months. Alaska crab in the shell can be frozen for 10 months.
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Q3. How long can I keep fresh seafood at home? How long should I keep thawed seafood?
A. Fresh and thawed seafood is best when it is used the same day that it is purchased or thawed. However, it can be held for an additional day in the coldest part of the refrigerator, if necessary. Check the label for a use by date and follow that date, if available.
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Q4. How much seafood should I buy?
A.  Whole or round fish: 3/4 to 1 lb. per person
   Dressed or clean fish: 1/2 to 3/4 lb. per person
   Fillets and steaks: 1/4 to 1/2 lb. per person
   Alaska king or snow crab, in the shell - 6 to 8 ounces per person, or one snow crab cluster.
   Dungeness crab: A 3-pound cooked crab yields approximately 12 ounces of meat.
   Canned salmon: 3-3/4-ounce can for one person, or a 7-1/2 ounce can for two.
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Q5. I noticed some crystals in my canned salmon that look like glass. What are they? Is the salmon safe to eat?
A. The crystals that you found are called struvite, and they sometimes occur naturally when seafood is canned. They pose no danger and the FDA has assured consumers that the seafood is completely safe to eat.

Sturvite occurs when certain natural constituents of the fish or shellfish have crystallized, much as sugar often forms crystals in syrups or preserves. The crystals are formed by the union of natural, normal constituents of the meat of all seafood after it is sterilized in the can. These constituents are mineral elements, supplied by the seawater in which the fish or shellfish live. While the fish or shellfish were alive, these mineral elements were important to their health. After cooking they come together in such a way that crystals are sometimes formed.
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Q6. I have a can of salmon that is dented, can I use it?
A. In general, you should avoid buying canned foods that are dented. Slightly dented canned foods can be consumed as long as there is no leaking and the seal is still intact. Never consume products from severely dented, leaking or swollen cans.
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Q7. Can I freeze seafood at home?
A. If you would like the convenience of having seafood on hand in your freezer it is always best to buy commercially frozen seafood. Most home freezers are unable to maintain the consistent temperatures necessary to hold seafood for extended periods of time. For those occasions when you catch your own seafood, or have more fresh seafood than you can consume within a few days, you can freeze it according to the following guidelines:
   Always start with fresh seafood. Seafood that has been frozen once and thawed should not
 be frozen again.
   Rinse the fish with water and pat it dry.
   Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then over wrap with foil or freezer paper, or place in a plastic
 freezer bag. Seafood to be frozen can also be packed in a home vacuum packing machine.
   Home frozen fish has about half the storage time of a commercially frozen product, see storage
 times for frozen product
and reduce the times listed by half.
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Q8. How should I handle leftover seafood? How long can I store it?
A. Leftover seafood is a great addition to salads, sandwiches and other dishes. If you have seafood leftover, be sure to refrigerate or freeze it within two hours after cooking. All leftovers should be stored in shallow covered containers. Whether refrigerated or frozen, the storage time for leftover seafood is the same as if it were uncooked.
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Q9. My refrigerator or freezer is not working. Is the seafood inside safe to eat?
A. In both cases, keeping the door shut as much as possible will extend the time that the seafood will keep. In the refrigerator, food will be kept cold for four to six hours, depending on the external temperature. You can add block ice to the refrigerator, if it will be off longer than that. A fully stocked freezer will usually keep food frozen for two days, with food in a half-full freezer lasting about one day.

After the incident, if seafood still has ice crystals in it, it can be refrozen safely, but the texture may suffer. If frozen seafood has thawed or if refrigerated seafood was over 40°F for more than two hours, it should be thrown away.

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