The white meat of the halibut fish is firm and sweet, but, like all fish, halibut only keeps in temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours -- at 90 F, only one hour -- before bacteria growing on the fish make it unsafe to eat. Cooked or raw, freezing is the best way to store halibut when you do not intend to eat it right away. How long halibut lasts in freezing conditions is a quality issue.
In a freezer set to zero degrees Fahrenheit or below, halibut keeps for an indefinite amount of time. Although the subzero temperatures of the freezer halt the bacterial growth that leads to food-borne illness, lean fish such as halibut only maintain their quality in the freezer for six to eight months. After this time, the halibut is still safe to eat, but the texture and the taste of the fish may begin to deteriorate.
For maximum quality, wrap halibut tightly in aluminum foil, plastic wrap or freezer wrap. Freezer bags also work well to prevent quality loss, keeping the halibut free of freezer burn and off-flavors that may develop during the storage period. Label the wrapped halibut for future reference with the type and amount of fish inside the package, along with the date of freezing. A piece of masking tape with this information written in permanent marker serves as a sufficient label.
Never thaw halibut at room temperature. Bacteria that freezing renders inactive quickly become active in temperatures above 40 F. Transfer the halibut from the freezer to the refrigerator 24 hours prior to cooking to ensure a thorough thaw. Microwaving the halibut or placing it in a water-tight bag and submerging it in cold water are also safe ways to thaw, providing you cook the fish immediately afterward.
Unlike freezing, refrigeration does not cause the bacteria that cause food-borne illness to become inactive, but refrigeration does slow bacterial growth. If you thaw frozen halibut in the refrigerator, keep in mind that lean fish only keep for a day or two before bacteria multiply to levels that render the fish unsafe for consumption. After two days, throw the halibut and it’s packaging in the trash; do not cook, eat or refreeze.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images