Caviar is exceedingly delicate food, and everything about it is delicate, including the beads themselves as well as the flavor. Because of this, caviar has to be handled properly to ensure that it ends up being as good as it can be.
So should you keep caviar in the fridge? Yes, you do keep caviar in the fridge, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind if you intend to do so. Caviar needs to be kept in a specific temperature range between 26 and 36 degrees F, which is a little colder than many refrigerators can manage.
Of course, there are a lot of nuances related to eating caviar, and storing it in the fridge is one of these many nuanced factors related to this kind of food. I’m going to take a bit of a closer look at what you need to do to properly store caviar in the fridge and also discuss some alternative caviar storage methods later on.
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Do You Keep Caviar in the Fridge?
Whether or not you have to keep caviar in the fridge depends on the type of caviar that you have at your disposal. Here are the two main varieties of caviar:
- Non-pasteurized malossol caviar
- Pasteurized caviar
Whether or not you keep your caviar in the fridge will depend on the kind of caviar that you have and whether or not the tin has been opened.
As always, you should follow the storage instructions outlined on the tin or provided to you by the caviar vendor that you purchased the tin from.
Do You Keep Non-Pasteurized Malossol Caviar in the Fridge?
When people think of the fanciest types of caviar, they’re typically thinking of malossol caviar. This is caviar that has been produced using the malossol process to ensure the proper balance between the amount of salt in the tin and the ability to preserve the caviar for long enough to be served.
Creating malossol caviar is an art form that has been mastered by the producers of the best caviar in the world, including beluga caviar. However, since the caviar isn’t heavily salted to retain the flavor of the fish eggs themselves, it will also be more vulnerable to spoilage than other, more heavily-salted types of caviar.
This means that you’ll certainly want to store your non-pasteurized caviar in the fridge before you consume it. Non-pasteurized caviar needs to be kept at temperatures between 26 and 36 degrees F, so you’ll want to turn up the cooling level of your refrigerator if possible.
Ideally, use a thermometer to measure the ambient temperature in the area where you intend to store your caviar in the fridge, as that will allow you to maintain the flavor as much as possible. There are several areas in your fridge where you can expect the temperature to be cooler than average.
The coldest part of a typical fridge is in the meat rack or meat drawer, and that’s usually found near the bottom. This makes sense when you consider that heat rises, so you can expect the lower parts of your fridge to be colder than the middle or the top of it, and that’s where you should store your caviar.
Also, be sure to keep the caviar far from the door, as the rapid fluctuations in temperature when you open up your fridge may damage the caviar. The best place to keep caviar is far in the back of the bottom drawer where it won’t be affected by the changing temperature quite as much.
Unfortunately, your fridge may not be able to reach such cold temperatures, even if you’re storing your caviar in the meat drawer. In these cases, you have a few options at your disposal to make the temperature even colder. Most people will put the caviar tin in a bowl where it can be surrounded with ice to keep the temperature low.
If you decide to store your caviar in a bowl of ice, keep in mind that you may have to replace the ice cubes periodically to ensure that the temperature remains within the proper range.
If caviar is stored at the right temperature, then you can expect it to last for up to a month as long as the tin is undamaged and hasn’t been opened. Keep in mind that the quality will begin to degrade as soon as you start storing your caviar, but the degradation will only start to become noticeable after that first month.
Once malossol caviar has been opened, it becomes even more perishable. You should try to finish caviar in a single serving, whenever possible, but if you can’t, you’ll have about three days to eat it before the quality degrades to the point that you won’t even want it anymore.
If you intend to store non-pasteurized caviar after opening it, you’ll want to pat it down first, as that will ensure that as many of the beads are contacting the oil as possible, preventing the eggs from drying out.
Also, be sure to tightly put plastic wrap over the top of the opened tin to minimize the amount of air that gets into the tin. When air comes into contact with your caviar, it can oxidize it, destroying the delicate flavor of the eggs and eliminating the delicate crunch that is so prized in caviar.
Do You Keep Pasteurized Caviar in the Fridge?
If you’ve got your hands on a tin of pasteurized caviar, you won’t have to take as many precautions when you’re storing it.
Pasteurized caviar is exposed to a lot of salt during the canning process, and it is then exposed to temperatures of around 200 degrees F for several hours to kill any bacteria living in the fish eggs.
This means that you can store pasteurized caviar at room temperature.
While this process may make caviar safer to store, transport, and consume, it will also negatively affect the flavor of the caviar. This is because the large amount of salt introduced into caviar when it’s pasteurized will overpower the delicate flavor of the fish eggs themselves.
Pasteurized caviar tends to be a lot more affordable than the non-pasteurized malossol varieties, as they require less care to be prepared.
When storing pasteurized caviar, the amount of time it will remain safe to eat depends on the exact type of caviar. Some connoisseurs recommend storing caviar for no longer than sixty days to ensure that the flavor and texture remain unaffected and to be on the safe side.
On the other hand, you can technically store a can of pasteurized caviar for between six months and a year if it’s stored in the proper conditions. If you intend to store your pasteurized caviar for an extended period of time, you’ll want to make sure that you keep it in a cool and dark place where it won’t be warmed by sunlight.
If you’re buying caviar from a non-specialty retailer and having it delivered to you, then you can typically expect it to be pasteurized because of the complications involved in shipping malossol caviar.
Once pasteurized caviar has been opened up, it loses many of the qualities that it’s prized for, including its ability to be left out of the fridge. This is because the air that is now in the tin will foster an environment in which potentially harmful bacteria can thrive and break down your caviar.
Just like unpasteurized malossol caviar, you should store your pasteurized caviar in the coldest part of your fridge, over a bed of ice, if required. You can expect to store unpasteurized caviar for about three days before it begins to degrade and toxic bacteria begins to take hold.
When you’re getting ready to serve your pasteurized caviar, you’ll want to take it out of storage and keep it in the fridge for about ten hours to ensure that it reaches the right serving temperature. In most cases, you’ll want to keep it over a bed of ice to ensure that it gets cold enough.
This means that you can’t typically serve pasteurized caviar on short notice if you don’t intend to keep it in your fridge. However, most of the time, you’ll want to plan out the serving of caviar to ensure that you have the right accompaniments and that everyone’s palate is prepared to appreciate it.
What’s Wrong With Pasteurized Caviar?
After going through that, you may be wondering why pasteurized caviar is so much more affordable than malossol caviar despite being easier to handle. As we’ve already mentioned, plenty of salt needs to be added to pasteurized caviar, making up at least 6% of a tin.
While that may not sound like a large amount, it means that about 1/20th of your caviar is going to be salt, which considerably alters its flavor. Since caviar has a much more delicate flavor than other foods, it’s very easy for it to get overpowered by the salt, losing some of the unique flavor that caviar is prized for.
If you’re paying a lot of money for the caviar experience, you may be disappointed to find that it tastes like any other kind of oversalted seafood. This is typically the experience that people have when trying pasteurized caviar, and I’m hesitant to even put it in the same category as malossol caviar.
Unfortunately, the flavor of caviar isn’t the only thing that’s impacted by pasteurization. Caviar’s texture is one of the most important factors that go into grading it, and the texture can often be compromised by the excessive salt used in the pasteurization process.
Since salt will wear away at the external membrane of each bead of caviar, it will lose some of the crunch that it’s known for with every tablespoon of salt that is added to it. This will leave pasteurized caviar seeming like thawed caviar in which the eggs don’t pop the same way when you chew them.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with pasteurized caviar, especially if conditions don’t permit you to enjoy malossol caviar, most connoisseurs will deem it an inferior product. It may be acceptable if you’re just getting started eating caviar, but once you try the real thing, it will be hard to go back to it.
Can You Freeze Caviar?
If you’d like to store your caviar for longer than would be possible in the fridge, you may consider resorting to the freezer. Freezing caviar is something that should be reserved as a last-ditch effort because you won’t be able to serve your caviar before it goes bad when stored regularly.
This is because the process of freezing and thawing caviar will degrade delicate malossol caviar and will diminish the experience of eating it. Most notably, frozen caviar will gradually lose flavor each time it’s thawed, and I’d highly recommend against freezing caviar more than once.
Since caviar already has an extremely delicate flavor, reducing that flavor even more by freezing it will make the experience less memorable. When you freeze a tin of caviar, you also diminish its value because of the changes to the flavor and the texture of the beads.
Texture changes are typically exhibited in the caviar becoming less crunchy, similar to pasteurized caviar. Another thing that you’ll have to consider when you freeze caviar is how you’re going to thaw it, as you’ll want to be careful not to damage the eggs with temperature shock.
To unfreeze caviar, you should place it in the coldest part of your fridge and let it slowly thaw over the course of the day. It may take one or two days for the caviar to fully thaw, so don’t be afraid of putting it in the fridge early if you intend to serve it sometime soon.
If you fail to thaw your caviar properly, you may end up causing the beads to burst, as the sudden change in temperature will cause them to erupt.
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