Tilapia has been in the top ten most-consumed seafood products in the U.S. since 2002, according to the Seafood Health Facts website. You can fry frozen tilapia. However, tilapia should be divided into fillets before freezing. Most store-bought tilapia already comes in large, flat fillets that are ideal for pan frying. Pan-fried frozen tilapia will take about 10 minutes to cook, depending on the size, according to information from the Minnesota Sea Grant College Program.
When pan frying frozen tilapia, use a heavy pan with a drizzle of vegetable oil. A low to medium heat helps prevent the exterior from burning while the inside remains cold. When the tilapia turns opaque and easily flakes apart with a fork, then it's probably ready to eat. However, it's safest to check the temperature of your fish before serving. Tilapia is cooked and safe to eat when it reaches 140 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit on the inside, according to Doris Hicks, a seafood specialist with the Delaware Sea Grant College Program. Use a candy or baking thermometer to check the temperature.
Whole frozen tilapia should not be fried straight from the freezer, especially if the fish hasn't been gutted and cleaned before freezing. The guts will make the fish taste bad and turn messy when cooked. It's also more difficult to ensure that a whole fish is fully cooked in the center. Instead, thaw a whole tilapia in the refrigerator overnight. Don't leave it out at room temperature, as this can cause bacteria to grow in the fish flesh. The thawed tilapia can then be fried whole or cut into fillets. As with frozen tilapia, ensure the internal temperature reaches 145 F before eating.
When you're buying frozen fish from the store, look for frozen tilapia in a sealed, tight package with no water or other moisture inside. Avoid deformed packs or those with rips, exposed areas or ice crystals growing around the packaging. The fish itself should have a pinkish-white color and no tough, dark patches. If the package smells strange, such as having a slight tinge of ammonia, discard it.
Deep frying frozen tilapia take less time than pan frying, as little as 3 to 5 minutes, depending on size. However, deep fried frozen tilapia doesn't always produce the best results. Ideally, you will have already coated the fish in an egg and flour batter before freezing. If you coat the fish in batter in its frozen state, it won't hold on to the coating properly. Unbattered fish tends to fall apart when deep fried. In general, avoid deep frying frozen tilapia.
- Washington State University Extension: How to Safely Thaw and Prepare Frozen Fish
- Marine Advisory Service Bulletin: A Consumer Guide to Safe Seafood Handling
- Minnesota Sea Grant: Timetable for Cooking Fish
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Fresh and Frozen Seafood: Selecting and Serving it Safely
- Agricultural Marketing Resource Center: Tilapia Profile
- Seafood Health Facts: Making Smart Choices: Tilapia
- David Silverman/Getty Images News/Getty Images