How to Defrost Fish in Microwave

Imagine this: you went to a supermarket for your weekly run of groceries and came across some beautiful pieces of your favorite fish. Immediately, all the scrumptious things you can make with it cross your mind: fish curry, fried fish, grilled fish, fish stew, fish pie, and the list goes on.  

You buy the fish, come home, and toss it into the freezer, vowing to make it the next day. 

The next day’s here, you’re ready to cook with your apron on and your trusted spoon in your hand only to find that you’ve forgotten to defrost the fish.

Now what?

Well, this is where you turn to your good old microwave. And while most people advise against defrosting fish in the microwave, let me tell you – it’s the quickest and easiest way to defrost fish. And if done right, you won’t end up with mushy or overcooked fish. 

Here’s everything you need to know about defrosting fish in the microwave. 

Can you defrost fish in the microwave?

Yes, you can defrost fish in the microwave, but you need to be very careful. Fish is very delicate and if you’re not cautious, you might overheat your fish while microwaving it.

When defrosting fish, make sure to set your microwave to the defrost setting and nuke it periodically. If your microwave doesn’t have the defrost option, then you can reduce the power level to about 30%. Higher power can start to cook the fish instead of thawing it.  

Keep checking the fish in between to see if it’s thawed. You need to stop microwaving when the fish turns pliable, even if there’s some ice visible on the surface. The carryover heat will melt the remaining ice.

Time is crucial here. You don’t want your fish to start cooking but you also don’t want uneven defrosting and hot spots. So you need to be very careful.

Can you defrost fish fillets in the microwave?

Yes, it is entirely possible to defrost fish fillets in the microwave but, again, you must be careful. Since fillets are thin, they can heat up quickly. So while nuking them, keep a close eye on them to prevent hotspots. 

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If you make even a small error when defrosting fillets in a microwave, you can end up with unevenly cooked fillets.  

Microwaves sometimes tend to give out sporadic heat and the temperature can fluctuate. This can lead to hotspots in the fillets that ultimately ruin their taste, quality, and texture. These hotspots can even partially cook thin and small fillets.

Is it safe to defrost fish in the microwave?

Yes, it is safe to defrost fish in the microwave, but you need to remember one thing. When you defrost any food in a microwave, it is heated to 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature encourages bacterial growth, which is why it’s better that you cook the defrosted fish immediately.

Fish tends to warm up very quickly so keep checking it and stop the defrost cycle when it’s sufficiently melted. Doing so will also prevent hotspots.

Also, keep in mind that you can’t keep defrosted fish out for more than two hours; otherwise, it will go bad.

How to defrost fish in the microwave?

To defrost fish in the microwave, use a microwave-safe dish or plate with a vented lid and place that over a microwave rack. Put the microwave in defrost mode and start nuking the fish at 1-minute intervals. Flip the fish after every interval till it is evenly defrosted. Stop microwaving when the fish turns pliable – the remaining ice will melt off when you cook it.

It is very common practice to chuck the fish in a freezer and then defrost it when it’s time to cook it. And if you want to enjoy delicious fish in minutes, microwaving is the way to go. But you need to take care to get it right to avoid food poisoning or overcooking the fish. 

With that in mind, here’s how you should defrost fish in the microwave:

  • Take the frozen fish out of its original packaging. Never put disposable styrofoam or plastic containers in the microwave. 
  • Put the fish in a microwave-safe container. Ideally, you should use a ceramic or glass container since heating plastic can leech off dangerous chemicals into the food. I also recommend separating the pieces and spacing them a little apart to further ensure even cooking. If you can’t separate them at first, quickly microwave them for a minute to make it easier to separate them. 
  • Cover the fish with a vented lid to prevent any splatter. Apart from making it easy to clean the microwave, doing so will also help limit the lingering smell of fish. 
  • Place the covered microwave-safe container on a microwave rack and set the microwave on defrost mode.
  • Nuke the fish in one-minute intervals and keep flipping it after every interval.
  • Drain out the melted ice that might form after a few intervals. This will help prevent sogginess.
  • Once you microwave for a few minutes and see the ice starting to melt, switch to microwaving in 30-second intervals. This will make sure that you don’t accidentally start to cook the fish.
  • When you think that the fish is bendable and soft enough, stop the timer, even if it is still cold. But don’t immediately take it out of the microwave. Allow the heat of the microwave to melt the ice that’s still present.  
  • Finally, after a few minutes, take the fish out of the microwave. Use gloves while taking out the container since it can be very hot after all the microwaving. You can now start cooking the fish!

How long does it take to defrost fish in the microwave?

The time it takes to defrost fish in the microwave depends on how frozen the fish is, the quantity, how thin the pieces are, and the power of your microwave. However, in general, it can take up to 5 minutes. 

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It’s very difficult to determine the actual time it takes to defrost fish in the microwave. This is because different microwaves come with different defrost settings depending on their wattage. So you might have to experiment a bit to find the right time. 

There’s a high chance that you have malleable fish after microwaving it for just 2-3 minutes. This is why you need to keep checking it. If it’s not evenly thawed and there’s not much ice left, don’t microwave it any further. Instead, let the carry-over heat take care of it.

Tips to defrost fish in the microwave

Some other tips to keep in mind to safely defrost fish in the microwave include: 

  • Use only microwave-safe containers. You can find if a container is microwaveable or not by checking the bottom. Never put metal containers in the microwave.
  • Never microwave colored paper plates, paper napkins, aluminum foils, plastic wraps, and foam trays. They can melt and leech harmful toxins in the fish. 
  • The microwave’s power is really important here so it’s better that you go through its user manual once. Check out how you can get the defrosting right in your model. 
  • Only defrost fish when you’re ready to cook it; you cannot let it sit once it’s defrosted. 
  • If you skip defrosting and directly cook frozen fish, make sure to cook it for longer so that it’s evenly cooked. 

Wrapping Up

You no longer have to change your dinner plans just because you forgot to defrost your fish beforehand. You can easily defrost it in the microwave and start cooking it just the way you prefer it.

Just remember to keep our tips in mind, and you will have evenly defrosted fish with the perfect taste, texture, and quality. Happy microwaving!

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