Tilapia has gained much popularity over the years, but it’s important to ask a grocery store representative where their tilapia comes from and how it’s raised. Since tilapia retain much of the same flavor as the water it swims in, farm-raised varieties may not only taste off, but also contain dirt and bacteria. If you are buying the fish whole, make sure it smells oceanic and has clear eyes.
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Next: How to Freeze Tilapia
Properly stored, tilapia will last in your freezer from six to eight months. It is important to take the fish (which can be in its original packaging) and re-wrap it with plastic wrap, freezer paper, or aluminum foil. Stick the filets in a freezer bag for added protection.
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Next: How to Thaw Tilapia
Like most fish, you should never thaw tilapia in a microwave or on the kitchen counter. A microwave will cook the fish and make the filet more susceptible to airborne bacteria. Your best bet is to place the tilapia in a bowl of cold water and change every 30 minutes or so until the fish is ready to be cooked.
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The best way to store fish is over ice. Remove the fish from its original packaging, rinse under cold water, and dry with paper towels. Set fish on a cooling rack and place inside a container filled with crushed ice. The ice should reach just beneath the fish, but shouldn’t touch it. Cover the container, rack, and fish with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place in the fridge. If the fish is stored longer than 24 hours, be sure to swap out the melted ice with a new batch. Ideally, any fresh fish should not be stored for more than two days.
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Some fish can be frozen for up to year (with three months as the standard), but its freshness depends entirely on its exposure to air. To limit this from taking place, you should first clean the fish, wrap it in aluminum foil or freezer paper, and place it in a freezer bag. Press down on the bag before closing to eliminate any excess air.
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Thawing frozen fish is quite an easy process. Simply leave it in the refrigerator overnight or place the wrapped fish in a bowl of cold water. Don’t microwave the fish, as some sections will cook while others are continuing to thaw.
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Next: How to Pick Tilapia
For this easy Mexican baked tilapia recipe—a twist on huachinango a la Veracruzana, Veracruz-style red snapper—fish fillets combine with yellow onion, red bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, tomatoes, green olives, capers, and cilantro.
What to buy: Tilapia is a fish that’s affordable and readily available, but check to make sure the fillets you buy are from a source that practices sustainable aquaculture. Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch for recommendations.