The best way to thaw out seafood is to put it in the refrigerator overnight. If you must use a microwave, here are some general times for the defrost mode in the microwave. Since microwaves vary in size and power output, check with your microwave manual first for specific instructions or times, or for defrosting recommendations.

Note: For defrosting fish and seafood, arrange and separate if possible. Microwave for half the time, then stir or break apart and separate, and if applicable, turn over. Continue to defrost. Try the minimum times first. This defrosting method should be used only if you plan to cook the fish or seafood product immediately after thawing. Why? Read this from the USDA:

When thawing food in a microwave, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during the thawing process (bringing the food to “Danger Zone” temperatures). Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed and, indeed, the food may have reached optimal temperatures for bacteria to grow.

The danger zone temperature range is between 40 and 140 °F.

Below is a handy chart for defrosting fish and seafood in the microwave.

Item Setting Time
Fish, fillets
Defrost mode
4 to 8 mins./lb.
Fish, steaks
Defrost mode
3 to 7 mins./lb.
Fish, small whole
Defrost mode
3 1/2 to 7 mins./lb.
Scallops
Defrost mode
4 to 6 1/2 mins./lb.
Shrimp
Defrost mode
4 to 8 mins./lb.
Crab legs, 1 to 2, (8 to 10 oz.)
Defrost mode
5 to 7 mins./lb.
Whole lobster or crab
Defrost mode
8 to 12 mins./lb.
Oysters, a 12-oz. canister
Defrost mode
7 to 10 mins.
Renee Shelton enjoys writing about fish and testing recipes, and serves as webmaster for Dana Point Fish Company. When she’s not handling seafood or out fishing, she can be found in the bakeshop talking about pastry. Visit her at pastrysampler.com, or send her a message using the contact form above.