Is Fresh Always Best?

Is Fresh Always Best?

The classic fresh versus frozen debate has taken the world of seafood by storm for decades. Traditionally fresh seafood has dominated in the public eye, but we have come a long way since the mushed up fish sticks that traditionally represent frozen seafood, and we at Afishionado want to celebrate frozen seafood for its many qualities.

Fresh seafood straight off the boat is undoubtedly top quality, however, consumers rarely have access to such a luxury. The rise of globalization has led to a large amount of seafood imports here in Atlantic Canada, and fresh seafood may not be as fresh as you think, especially once it’s traveled thousands of miles just to get to your plate. 

Freezing seafood may just be one of the most crucial steps to ensuring freshness. Flash freezing is a method of freezing where seafood is frozen at temperatures ranging from-40˚C to -60˚C degrees, freezing the fish extremely quickly, preserving the freshness of the fish. This method of freezing fish is often implemented on boats or landing ports so the freshness can be captured right at sea. Flash frozen fish allows you to enjoy the great tasting freshness of a fish from anywhere in the world and in any season. 

Frozen seafood is also better for the environment and for supporting your small-scale fisheries. Freezing seafood takes the pressure off small fishermen to deliver fresh product immediately after it was caught. Fresh seafood must be rushed from fisherman to plate and as a result are often shipped by air, whereas frozen seafood can be shipped in more environmentally sensitive methods such as rail or boat as there is no ticking clock. 

Much of the debate between fresh and frozen has also been on the health and nutritional differences between the two. Many people believe that frozen seafood is a lot less nutritionally dense than fresh. The truth is that this difference is minimal. While the water released during thawing does contain some nutrients, when thawing is done correctly and if the seafood has been frozen immediately after harvest there is barely any loss at all, not to mention that frozen fish can often be safer to eat because the freezing process kills harmful bacteria!

But what does fresh vs frozen seafood mean for you? As a consumer there are specifics that you are looking for when buying fish. Maybe it is sustainability, taste and quality, convenience, diversity etc. Frozen portions allow consumers to minimize waste by only taking what they need from their freezer and give them access to fish they would never be able to find fresh. Frozen seafood allows us to try new seafood from all over the world and at any time of year and is more affordable. 

At Afishionado we believe that both fresh and frozen seafood have their benefits and if you can have fresh local seafood, we will always encourage you to do so. We truly believe that freshness can be frozen and in almost all other situations, frozen seafood is better. We do our part in ensuring that all our frozen products are packaged and prepared to capture optimum freshness. The value and convenience of frozen seafood is well represented in our Catch of the Month Program. Allowing you to try new seafood every month our subscription boxes come with ~4 lbs of frozen seafood conveniently packaged in 8oz – 1 lb portions. These boxes give you the freshness and convenience you are looking for while also valuing sustainability and delicious tasting seafood! For more information on our Catch of the Month program follow the link Here! 

FROZEN PRODUCT 101

A couple tips for ensuring your frozen fish is as fresh and as tasty as possible:

  • Defrost fish in the refrigerator or in a cold-water bath – do not place in warm water as it will impact the texture of the fish.
  • Avoid refreezing fish once it has thawed. From a safety perspective, this is okay to do, but it will comprise the texture of the fish.
  • Know where your seafood is coming from to ensure it has been frozen correctly.

 

The proper way to store fish and shellfish

We often receive questions about the best way to store seafood. Proper food handling is extremely important for guaranteeing quality and safety and is paramount for seafood because it’s often more perishable than other foods. Spoilage can happen quickly. Enzymes within seafood flesh kick start the decaying process, which is further helped by naturally occurring microorganisms. Knowing the best ways to safely store seafood can help to make it last longer, taste its best, and limit any risk of illness!

Ideally, fresh fish and shellfish should be kept between 1.5 to 2˚C. For fresh seafood, make sure you never go under 0˚C or over 4˚C! Check your fridge temperature. You might need to consider turning your fridge temperature down to maximize seafood freshness, but make sure it’s not too cold for other fresh products such as fruits and vegetables. The lucky folks among us will have a separate compartment with a colder setting, but regardless, the following information will let you know how long your catch will last and the best ways to store it:

 

Fresh and Frozen Fish

Most sources such as Health Canada recommend that you consume fresh fish within two days of purchase. However, this time varies depending on how fresh the fish really is. Fish could last for up to four or more days after purchase. When purchasing with from your local fishmonger, the best way to be sure is to just ask what they recommend! A good fishmonger will know when your fish was harvested and how long it’ll last under ideal conditions. Alternatively, when purchasing from grocery stores there is often a best before the date that should be followed.

If you can’t consume your fresh fish in time, freezing is a great option to prolong freshness. Your fish should be packaged so that there is little to no air left ꟷ vacuum packing works wonders ꟷ but if you don’t have one, squeezing as much air out as possible will do the trick. Another option is to fill a container with cold seawater or salted water and place the portions of fish in there to freeze. Take note that fish fattier fish like salmon and mackerel can’t be stored as long as those with little fat such as cod or hake. As a rule of thumb, fattier fish can remain in the freezer for up to 3 months, while low-fat fish can be stored for up to 6 months – in your home freezer. When fish has been stored in a commercial or industrial freezer, it is generally good up to 2 years from being packed!

 

Fresh and Frozen Shellfish

Fresh live shellfish should be stored in the refrigerator in a bowl with a damp cloth or paper towel over top. Any live product should never be stored while submerged in water or sealed in air-tight containers or bags because they’ll soon perish from lack of oxygen! Also, be sure to empty any water that accumulates at the bottom of the bowl ꟷ this is particularly common in mussels as they release a lot of water.

The freshness and quality of your shellfish will depend on how long it can be stored in the fridge. Health Canada suggests that all shellfish be consumed within three days, however, when bought fresh and local from fishmongers like us, we can recommend up to a week for mussels and clams, and up to three weeks for oysters! For fresh scallops and shrimp, we suggest no more than two days.

Whether you have leftovers or just want to save some of your shellfish for later, we recommend you cook your shellfish, or you can remove the meat and store in a freezer bag or container submerged in a brine solution or the cooled liquid that it was cooked in. For oysters specifically, it’s best to shuck the oysters and save the liquid to cover the oysters in. Below are some suggested freezer storing times:

  • Lobster – 3-4 months
  • Scallops – 6 months
  • Mussels – 3-4 months
  • Clams – 3-4 months
  • Oysters – 4-6 months
  • Shrimp – 4-6 months

 

As always, if you ever have any seafood related questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us through our website, or to come have a chat with us in person at the Warehouse at 2867 Isleville Street in Halifax’s North End on Thursdays and Fridays from 11 to 7, during the market day,ans Saturdays from 9-1.