We’re often asked if you can freeze smoked salmon, and the answer to that is very simple: yes! Well, sometimes. It depends on the smoked salmon, really. Ok, so perhaps the answer isn’t so simple after all. But if you follow this guidance, you’ll know for sure whether smoked salmon is suitable for freezing.
It’s always handy to have smoked salmon in the freezer. Smaller packs defrost in minutes, which is ideal if you have unexpected guests or a sudden smoked salmon craving.
How Fresh Is Your Smoked Salmon?
Unlike fine wine or cheese, salmon doesn’t age well. In fact, the fresher your fish, the better – and that goes for flavour, texture and even whether it’s safe to consume. Smoked salmon usually has a two-week shelf-life, but that doesn’t mean the quality will be the same on day 14 as it was on day 1. From the moment it’s sliced, the freshness will start to deteriorate; the cooler the temperature at which you store your fish, the slower the deterioration will be.
Freezing locks in the freshness by stopping the natural decaying process, which means that salmon frozen the day after slicing, then defrosted and eaten three months later, will actually taste fresher than salmon that’s eaten 14 days after slicing. If you’re going to freeze smoked salmon, it’s therefore much better to freeze it on the day you purchase it. Don’t wait until just before the ‘use-by’ date, as your smoked salmon will have already lost much of its freshness.
Quite often, supermarket smoked salmon will have been sitting in the warehouse for at least a week before it goes on the shelf. However, if you order directly from Forman & Field, your salmon will be sliced the day it’s dispatched, meaning it’s super fresh and ideal for freezing. Forman’s Smoked Salmon Convenience Pack is actually designed with freezing in mind. Simply pop the five small packs in the freezer until needed and defrost as and when you need them. They defrost in just 15 minutes, and as though they’ve just been sliced in the smokehouse. Delicious!
How Has Your Been Salmon Cured?
Before the fish are hung in the kilns to smoke, they need to be thoroughly cured. The London Cure method involves covering the fillets of salmon in rock salt to draw as much moisture as possible out of the fish, in a process that can take up to 24 hours. Excess moisture inside the fish would turn into ice crystals once frozen, which would then alter the texture of the salmon in a rather unpleasant way. As there is no moisture left after the London Cure, the smoked salmon freezes beautifully.
A common way to cure the salmon is the brining method. This involves leaving the salmon in saltwater, which usually also includes a mix of sugar, vinegar or flavourings. Brining has the opposite effect of dry-curing, as its purpose is to retain moisture in the fish so that it doesn’t dry out during the smoking process. As you can imagine, this is much better for business – because the final product is sold by weight, losing 10% of the weight of the fish is the same as losing 10% of the profit! Sadly, though, the end result is miles apart from traditional London Cure Smoked Salmon. The texture will often be slimy and, after freezing, even ‘mushy’. Yuck!
So essentially you can follow this simple rule: if your salmon has been dry-cured, feel free to freeze it. But if it’s been brined (like most supermarket smoked salmon), don’t!
How Is Your Smoked Salmon Packaged?
The final thing to bear in mind is the packaging of your smoked salmon. Most smoked salmon is presented in vacuum packaging, which is perfect for freezing. It ensures that no air gets to the fish, so there’s no need to worry about the dreaded freezer burn.
But what if you’ve already opened your pack of smoked salmon – is it still safe to freeze? Perhaps you’ve been given a 400g pack or even a whole side of smoked salmon, and there’s no way you’ll be able to eat it all within two weeks. In that case, you really mustn’t let it go to waste!
Most people don’t have a vac-pack machine at home (but if you do, by all means, use that!), so the next best thing is to wrap the salmon in lots of cling film and place it in an air-tight container. You can even wrap it in portions so that you only defrost a certain amount each time. The idea is to stop air from getting to the smoked salmon, so it’s better to use too much cling film in this case than too little. After that, you can place your smoked salmon in the freezer for up to three months. Easy!
Hopefully, you can now see that, whilst not all smoked salmon can be frozen, some smoked salmon freezes very well indeed! Just ensure you’re buying smoked salmon that has been dry-cured, not brined, and make sure you freeze it as soon as you can to retain maximum freshness. Vacuum sealed packs can go straight in the freezer, but it’s easy to portion up whole sides of salmon into freezable portions if you follow our simple instructions. Now go and freeze some smoked salmon for a rainy day… You’ll be glad you did!