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Do you ever get tired of chicken, lean and versatile though it is? Fish is a fantastic source of lean protein, healthy omega-rich fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. It’s perfect if you want to lose weight or build muscle. Let’s look at how you can add fish to a meal prep lifestyle by safely preparing, storing, and reheating it.
- Can You Meal Prep Fish?
- 5 Delicious Fish For Meal Prep
- How to Store Fresh Fish
- How to Store Cooked Fish
- How to Store Canned Fish
Can You Meal Prep Fish?
Since fresh fish and seafood have a well-earned reputation for spoiling quickly, most people think it’s not good for meal prep. However, it is safe to meal prep fish if you follow some safety and storage guidelines. This happens because of their unique fat and amino acid composition. Whether your seafood is fresh, cooked, or frozen, you must handle it safely to avoid harmful bacteria.
A while back, I was reading about the health benefits of fish and seafood and thought about adding it to my meal prep rotation. I’d always avoided it because of the smell of reheated fish. Still, I investigated and experimented, and here are my best tips for meal-prepping fish – without the stench.
Use Marinades And Rubs
If you’re not a fan of “fishy” flavors, use tangy seasoning to tone it down. Marinate the fish overnight so that it really gets a flavor infusion. Try a lemon and herb marinade or a spicy paprika rub.
Bake The Fish
Baking is the quickest, easiest, and most convenient way to prepare fish. It’s hands-off, so you can carry on with other prep, and the fish cooks within 20 minutes. You don’t even need to flip it.
Here’s what to do:
- Preheat your oven to hot, around 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Lay fish fillets out on a baking sheet
- Season the fish
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes
Avoid Overcooking Fish
One of the reasons people don’t enjoy meal-prepping fish is that it’s generally overcooked, dried out, and pungent.
Monitor the oven to see when the fish loses its opaqueness. Pierce it with a fork and twist: if the fish flakes, it’s done.
Remember that you may reheat this fish and don’t want it to be rubbery when you eat it.
Eat Fish Cold
You can reheat your refrigerated or defrosted fish in the microwave for two minutes.
However, microwaving fish causes that dreaded fishy smell to waft through your home. It’s even worse if you’re heating fish in your office, letting everyone know what you’re having for lunch – whether they like it or not. Guilty as charged.
If you’re taking meal-prepped fish to work for lunch, eat it cold. If your fish was stored safely, it would be fine if you don’t reheat it. Here are some ideas for cold fish dishes:
- Make a fresh, tangy green salad topped with cold, flaked fish.
- Create a bowl of cooked, cooled grain, fresh veggies, and flaked fish.
- Heat a bowl of vegetable soup and flake the fish into it afterward. The heat of the soup will warm the fish through.
Keep Canned Fish Handy
Canned fish is ideal for meal prep because you can store it indefinitely so long as it’s in the can. Once you open it, treat it as cooked fish.
Tuna, salmon, pilchards, or sardines make an excellent lunch on top of a salad, as a sandwich topping, or as a quick ingredient in a sauce.
5 Delicious Fish For Meal Prep
The American Heart Association recommends a fish-based meal at least twice a week, as it adds heart-healthy fats and protein to your diet. What are the best fish to meal prep to get this healthy boost?
Salmon is the ideal fish for meal prep. For a start, it contains healthy omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and a protein boost. It’s flavorful, delicious hot or cold, and doesn’t dry out easily because of its fat content. Choose wild-caught salmon or Alaskan chinook salmon, which is sustainably farmed.
A mild white fish, cod is lean and protein-rich. It’s incredibly versatile and works well in various recipes, from curry to Thai. To avoid buying cod from overfished areas and destroying the marine habitat, look for sustainable Alaskan cod.
Despite their humble appearance in tins, sardines are some of the most nutritious fish: they contain more omega-3, vitamin D, and calcium than salmon. Choose tinned sardines or wild-caught Pacific sardines for sustainability.
If you’re not a fish-lover, you’ll probably avoid sardines, with their pungent fishiness – I did too. What converted me into a sardine lover was eating fresh sardines, straight off the grill, with lemon and garlic. I add them to sauces and even snack on them on crackers when I need a protein kick.
Also known as the Asian sea bass, barramundi is a white-fleshed, lean fish. It has half the calories of salmon but still packs a massive omega punch. Try to find farmed barramundi: in this case, wild-caught fish are an unhealthy choice because of the mercury they ingest when eating smaller fish.
Alaskan pollock is a mild-flavored white fish with all the protein and omega oils you need. It’s the most sustainable choice of fish: it is plentiful, caught cleanly, and uncontaminated by mercury. This is the ideal fish for feeding children, as it is not overly fishy or pungent tasting. To top it all, Alaskan pollock is one of the most budget-friendly fish. I can’t ask for more!
How to Store Fresh Fish
If you buy fresh fish and seafood from the market or groceries, you must get it home and into the fridge as quickly as possible.
Transport your fish in a cooler box or with ice packs until you get home. Rinse it with cold water, dry it with a paper towel, and place the fish in the fridge.
According to the USDA, fresh fish should not be out of the fridge for more than one to two hours. You can safely refrigerate raw fish and seafood for one to two days. This means keeping the fish at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Freezing Fresh Fish
If you won’t use your fish immediately, it is safer to freeze it in portions. You can freeze raw fish at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below for three to eight months and shellfish for three to 12 months. Frozen fish starts to lose flavor and texture after being frozen for an extended period.
Thaw frozen fish in the fridge overnight.
How to Store Cooked Fish
Because raw fish has a short shelf life, cooking your fish as part of meal prep is essential.
Cooked fish will stay fresh for three to four days if stored airtight in the refrigerator. Spoilage and bacteria will develop after four days, making the fish unsafe to eat.
Treat cooked fish as leftovers – even if you haven’t eaten it yet. Discard the fish as soon as it smells funky or changes color.
Freezing Cooked Fish
For any meals you plan on eating more than four days ahead, freezing meal prep is the safest storage option. You can store cooked, cooled fish in the freezer for up to three months.
Defrost cooked fish in the fridge overnight.
How to Store Canned Fish
Canned tuna and salmon are stalwarts of meal prep. Commercially canned fish can be stored for up to five years in your pantry.
Fish is an excellent protein choice for meal prepping because it is quick and easy to cook and contains heart-healthy oils, vitamins, and minerals. So long as you purchase good quality, sustainable fish, cook it gently and store it safely, you can enjoy highly nutritious and delicious meals.
Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.