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OK to use frozen fish bones instead of fresh to make fish stock?

I've never made fish stock before, but I have the carcass of a 24-lb California halibut in my freezer. It's in the freezer because the fish came home on Saturday and our trash doesn't go out until Friday... Fillets were removed from the fish on Saturday.

But now I'm thinking I should take the opportunity to make fish stock. Will it be OK to defrost the carcass this coming weekend and use it? It still has the head and tail attached. If so, do I need to defrost it first?

Also, any favorite fish stock recipes to share? I read some other posts and saw a suggestion to remove the fins and tail first so I can do that.


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  1. Yes, it's fine. Go for it.

      1. Works really well. Go for it!

        My favorite fish fumet recipe is from Moonan's FISH: Without a Doubt. The method is the key so I can't post due to copyright issues. Maybe do a web search?

        1. I second the previous motions. I've done it with good results. Defrosting will occur as the water in which the carcass is cooking comes to a boil.

          Also, if you like shrimp and you peel cooked store bought shrimp, you can also make a shrimp stock from the shells.

          1. At the risk of confusing a simple process, the last time I made fish stock, the fishmonger advised me to blanch the carcass before getting down to making stock. It was a bit more bother, but I thought it was indeed worth it. Barbara Kafka also simmers her stock for longer than many recommend.


            3 Replies
            1. re: sr44

              I made salmon fumet last week from the rack of a 30+ pounder that my friend caught. I baked the bones for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, rather than blanching. Then I pulled the meat off and set it aside for the salmon-corn chowder I was making. This had been fileted quite cleanly, but since it was such a huge fish, I still recovered nearly a pound of meat off those bones. The meat off the adipose fins was such a delicacy, I ate that part separately. I imagine that fluke meat (engawa) from halibut will be very special too.

              1. re: sr44

                Hmmm... I've got a halibut, which is a very large "flat fish" so I wonder if the note about flat fish -- flounder and sole applies.

                1. re: bjd001

                  You caught a gorgeous fish!

                  Yes, halibut is in the same family as flounder and sole, so that rule probably applies. But the bones are also larger, so maybe you can cook a little longer before the bitterness is extracted. Personally, I've never taste tested to see if it's really true or not.

              2. Yup.
                I regularly fillet non-oily fish and put the bones (and head and tail) in a bag in the freezer.
                When the bag is full I make stock - then I freeze the stock in portions.

                1. Goodness, of course!! Even the late great Julia Child advised folks to save fish carcasses/scraps, lobster & shrimp shells in their freezer until they had collected enough to make a great stock.

                  And don't defrost it first!!! Just start your stock with it frozen. It will defrost quickly & perfectly well as the stock progresses. Defrosting first will do nothing but release juices & flavor prematurely.

                  Also - don't remove the fins/tail. Just the gills from the head (if you still have the head), because the gills can add an unpleasant bitterness.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Bacardi1

                    Thanks. I do still have the head. The only reason I thought I might have to defrost it first is that we didn't make much of an attempt to remove the guts and stuff so I'll need to clean that part up first.

                    Here's the fish, by the way. (This is my first time attaching a photo so I hope it works.)

                      1. re: bjd001

                        Well yes. If you froze it uncleaned, then you will have to defrost it enough to clean it out thoroughly. And do remove the gills from the head as well.

                        1. re: Bacardi1

                          Thanks, all, for the advice and encouragement. I could not find specifics of the recipe from Moonan's FISH: Without a Doubt online, so I ended up using this recipe for Strong Fish Stock from epicurious.com: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... Says it makes 2 quarts but I got about 3 quarts. Cutting up the bones was quite a challenge because the backbone was pretty thick! (Maybe 3/4 inch in diameter.) I was able to break the spine in several pieces and then I could cut those pieces into smaller pieces to fit in the pot. That was a couple of weeks ago and I put it all in the freezer.

                          Now I just need a good bouillabaisse recipe!