Ice is indisputably the champion when it comes to cooling methods for fish and seafood. Fish may be placed in a refrigerated, insulated container, a non-refrigerated, insulated container, or a non-refrigerated, non-insulated container. However, while refrigeration and insulation may be somewhat optional depending on the circumstances, ice seldom is. The vast majority of all seafood and fish cooling relies on ice in some way. That is because there are a number of very important advantages of using ice to cool fish.
The Importance of Cooling Fish
Before we discuss the particular advantages of ice itself as a cooling medium, it is important to understand why fish and seafood need to be cooled in the first place. Like most food products fish and seafood are subject to spoilage; however, unlike others the spoilage process begins immediately, as soon as the fish dies, and if left unchecked will progress at a very rapid rate. Cooling the fish to about 32°F is essential to slow down the growth of microorganisms and the overall spoilage rate. Spoilage can never be reversed or undone once it has it has happened, but it can be slowed with immediate, effective cooling.
Another important benefit of cooling is that it can help prevent or slow the development of rigor mortis in the fish. Rigor mortis occurs as a result of enzymatic reactions at the cellular level which causes the muscle tissue to stiffen. Cold temperatures help to retard the rigor mortis process, allowing the fish to remain pliable and marketable for longer.
The Advantages of Using Ice to Cool Fish
However, the positive effects of slowed spoilage and the retardation of rigor mortis are achievable at cold temperatures in general, regardless of method. So what is it that makes ice the unchallenged king of fish and seafood cooling? Consider the following advantages of using ice to cool fish:
Cooling Efficiency – Ice has a good cooling capacity and is an efficient way to cool seafood. When cooling occurs in a well-insulated or refrigerated container only a relatively small amount of ice is needed to successfully cool the seafood to freezing. However, extra ice should be added to compensate for melting ice.
Temperature Regulation – One drawback of coolers and freezers is that cooling is usually not completely uniform; there may be warmer or colder spots. This can result in inconsistent fish quality. By contrast ice is an effective way to regulate temperature and ensure consistency as long as the ice itself is distributed uniformly around the fish.
Moisture Retention – As ice melts it changes from a solid into a liquid, releasing cold water. This water in turn helps keep the fish moist by preventing surface dehydration. This moisture retention in turn also helps prevent the fish from suffering weight loss and loss of quality.
Safety – When it comes from clean, pure sources ice is extremely safe. This means that it won’t introduce any bacteria or additives to the fish. The ice itself should be handled like food to avoid cross contamination.
Convenience – Ice is a convenient cooling method. It can easily be stored, moved, and used as needed. It also comes in a wide variety of different sizes and types allowing it to best fit the needs and preferences of the fishing crew.
Availability – Ice is a very widely available resource. In addition to usual freshwater sources, ice can even be made out of processed, clean seawater.
Economical – Though the price of ice will of course vary by different factors such as ice source, ice type, and overall demand, ice is nevertheless a relatively economical way to cool fish and seafood. Ice can be made even more economical when it is efficiently stored and used without excess waste.
Semco offers a comprehensive selection of ice-related services and equipment ideal for use in the fishing industry. We understand how crucial freshness and quality are to the seafood and fish industry and we are committed to providing high quality, dependable ice solutions. Please contact us for more information about our ice and ice systems.