Myth: fresh seafood is always better than frozen
TRUTH: Most people believe that fresh fish is best; the price tag is usually higher and top quality chefs only prepare fresh ingredients. However, for the home cook, frozen can be a great option. If you live close to water, truly fresh fish is relatively easy to come by. For the inland population, “fresh” fish may already be 2-3 days old. For about the same price as you’d pay for fresh, you could get a better quality fish that happens to have been previously frozen.
At -60° F or cooler, fish can be flash frozen in less than 10 seconds on-board a fishing vessel (termed FAS or “frozen at sea”). If frozen and stored properly, the fact that the fish is previously frozen is nearly undetectable. In fact, about 50-60% of the sushi served in the US is prepared with FAS fish. Even the chefs at some famous NYC restaurants (i.e. Nobu) freeze fish that they purchase fresh. Most people (including themselves) often can’t tell a difference.
Oh, and choosing frozen fish is better for the environment! Surprised? I know – I’ve made a case against frozen food because transporting it is very energy intensive. But, it’s still more environmentally costly to fly fresh fish across the world than it is to ship frozen fish. So, while most of us can walk into a grocery store and purchase salmon; they’re only caught in North America, Northern Europe, and Chile –places that aren’t exactly close in proximity to most of the world.
BOTTOM LINE: For top quality frozen fish look for FAS fish or talk to your fishmonger. And, of course, never purchase a frozen fillet that shows any signs of freezer burn (i.e. white spots). Here are some other tips to preserve the texture and flavor:
- Thaw the fish in your refrigerator for up to 24 hours (about 6-8 hours per pound). If you thaw it too quickly, the cells will burst as ice turns to liquid, making the fish mushy and unappetizing.
- Cook fish as soon as possible after thawing. Otherwise, the difference in quality will be noticeable.
- For optimal taste and quality, cook fish to an internal temperature of 145° F. Using a meat thermometer is the best way to know when your fish is done.
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