The Great Fresh vs. Frozen Debate

Frozen fish has unfortunately earned itself a pretty poor reputation over the years, largely due to bad handling of seafood and poor freezing techniques. When I was a kid, I can remember eating frozen fish that was mushy and tasteless. Many people would turn their noses up at “frozen” seafood as though just by being frozen it was guaranteed to be a lower quality than “fresh” seafood. However, handling and freezing of seafood has come a long way in the past few decades and it is not longer the case that fresh is always better than frozen. At Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery, we use “flash freezing” technology to ensure that each piece of fish is as fresh tasting and nutritious as it would be straight off the boat.

Flash freezing is a process where the fish is frozen very quickly at extremely low temperatures– between -40 to -60 degrees celsius. Doing this ensures that the moisture and flavor of the fish are locked in. In your kitchen freezer, which is significantly warmer, ice crystals form slowly within the fish and, because water expands when it freezes, these ice crystals can pull apart the tissues and damage the meat.

In fact, in many cases, flash frozen fish today is of superior quality to “fresh” fish. Often, lengthy supply chains mean fish that has never been frozen may have had opportunities to warm up, reducing its quality. Flash freezing locks in the look, taste and smell of freshly caught fish and makes it possible for you to eat local, sustainable, fresh seafood year round.

As a bit of a history buff, I decided to look into the storied past of frozen foods. It all starts with Clarence Birdseye who noticed that the fish he caught in Nova Scotia tasted just as fresh when it was thawed, because it was left outside in the sub-zero arctic weather and froze extremely quickly rather than the slower process of at-the-time-modern methods. Modifying this technique, in 1924, Birdseye became the father of the frozen food industry, and you probably recognize the name from the package of frozen peas at the back of your freezer. If you’re interested in learning more, Mark Kurlansky wrote a fascinating biography of Birdseye titled, Birdseye- The Adventures of a Curious Man. We at Skipper Otto’s, as well as many other in the sustainable seafood movement, owe a debt to Birdseye for allowing us to provide our catch to your table throughout and beyond the fishing season.

Though flash frozen seafood ensures freshness and high quality, there are some things for you to keep in mind. The most important thing is to defrost your fish either in the refrigerator or in a cold-water bath. Warm water will negatively affect the texture of the fillet. Once your fish is thawed, you should avoid refreezing it. Our team always tries our best to pick out the best fillets for you to take home, but if you notice any freezer burn or a broken seal, let us know and we’ll trade it out for another one.

With flash frozen fillets you can enjoy wild, BC, Oceanwise, and sustainable fish throughout the winter, and then re-stock with next years catch in the 2015 season!

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