Can You Refreeze Fish Safely?

Fish. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Question: Can you refreeze fish?

If you have some fish that you thawed, but never got around to cooking, or a bunch of leftovers after a big meal or get-together, is it safe to refreeze them to enjoy later? You don't want to waste food, but you also don't want to make any mis-steps when seafood is involved. So, is refreezing fish ever okay?


Yes, cooked or uncooked fish that has been thawed in the refrigerator can safely be refrozen.

To preserve freshness, refreeze your fish within a few days of thawing. And definitely don't refreeze anything that's been left out for more than two hours, one hour if the temperatures are above 90 degrees.You probably won't have any problems with that rule, if you're looking to refreeze tonight's dinner, but if you served fish at a party, you should only refreeze the leftovers if you're certain you meet these time limits. Of course, you shouldn't eat the leftover fish at all, if you think you've exceeded these time limits. While fish is expensive, and it can be painful to throw it away, you definitely don't want to put yourself (or anyone else in your household) at risk for food poisoning. Always error on the side of caution when it comes to food. The USDA developed these guidelines for a reason.

How to Package Fish for Freezing

Take a little care in how you package your fish for the freezer, and you'll be a lot happier with the quality when you pull it out later.

Air is enemy number one of frozen foods. It's what causes things to develop freezer burn. So, wrap your fish in freezer paper or a freezer bag. The thick layer will help to keep air out. If you use a freezer bag, squeezing the excess air out of the bag before you seal the top, can also go a long way towards preventing freezer burn.

Here are some printable freezer labels you can use to label your fish.

How to Thaw and Use Refrozen Fish

Freezing food preserves it in its current state, but it doesn't turn back the clock. So, if your fish sat in the fridge for a few days before you decided to refreeze it, you need to try to use it as soon after re-thawing it as possible. Have a plan for your fish before you pull it back out of the freezer, so you'll be ready to put it to use as soon as it's thawed out.

Note: Refrozen fish may be slightly drier than usual. This is due to the second thawing cycle.

To learn more about refreezing foods, refer to the USDA website:

USDA: Safe Food Handling

While it's okay to freeze and refreeze fish, there are some foods that you shouldn't freeze