There’s something oh-so appealing about fresh food. A freshly made salad, with just-picked veggies or plump berries just from the vine — so refreshing and tasty! It may seem logical to think that fresh always trumps frozen food, but, in several cases, this may not always be true.
While there are certain instances where you definitely want to purchase foods fresh, such as when local fruits and vegetables are in-season, there are times when opting for frozen can benefit you in terms of nutrition, flavor and efficiency.
It’s time to chill out with these three subzero heroes that you don’t want to give the cold shoulder.
Sure, it would be great if we all could hook our own fish or take advantage of buying fresh seafood directly from fishermen through CSA programs and direct-to-consumer operations. But when this isn’t an option, it can be a smart move to push your cart past the fresh fish counter and make a beeline to the freezer section.
Freezing acts as a “pause button” that extends the lifespan of food, and this applies for fish like salmon, barramundi and cod as well as fruits and vegetables. The state-of-the-art flash-freezing technology and vacuum sealing that are now used for commercially harvested farmed and wild fish and shellfish results in no loss of quality. Plus, as long as freezer temperatures are 0°F or below, it brings bacterial growth to a complete halt, especially versus fridge temps, which only slow down the growth in a catch of the day.
If you’re watching your food budget, frozen seafood is also often priced more economically than fresh counterparts. Time-sensitive fresh fish like wild salmon must be shipped by air which adds to the cost, whereby frozen fish can travel by boat, rail or truck, requiring less energy to get to market. And what isn’t typically advertised for the “fresh” fish on display at the grocery store is that it’s likely been previously frozen anyway, because this is an important step for preserving quality and safety. Yet a day or so after thawing it’s not so fresh anymore.
So the fish in the freezer may be better quality than the one that’s been sitting on ice for a bit too long. Casting your line in the freezer section also lets you buy a bunch in advance and use it up over a few months.
Just know that even mild thawing can shorten a fish’s freshness, so it’s important to keep frozen seafood completely rock solid. That means you should add frozen seafood to your grocery cart near the end of your shopping. If it’s a bit of a haul to the grocery store for you, it’s worth bringing a cooler with ice packs to ensure your fish stays at the right temperature. Any liquid inside the package suggests partial thawing, which isn’t good.
Oh, and, yes, you can cook fish fillets straight from the freezer and skip the thawing process if you haven’t planned ahead. Simply remove fish from its packaging, rinse under cold water to remove any frost or ice that’s accumulated, pat dry with a paper towel and then brush with a thin layer of oil before seasoning with salt and pepper. Then roast in the oven, adding a few minutes to the cook time in your recipe to account for the lack of thawing.
Fresh local cherries at the height of summer are not to be missed, but their season is fleeting. So the rest of the calendar year, when fresh options tend to be rather flavorless, it’s a better idea to opt for bags of frozen cherries.
Fruits like cherries that are commercially frozen are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, and sometimes even more so. That’s because produce starts to lose some micronutrients and antioxidants gradually after harvest, so the longer it takes to travel from field to fork, the less nutrient-dense it becomes. On the flipside, cherries destined for the freezer are harvested when fully ripened, meaning they’re at their nutrition and flavor peaks. Modern flash-freezing techniques preserve these qualities – most companies freeze their fruits within hours of harvesting.
Besides, pitting a recipe’s worth of fresh cherries can eat up way too much time. Pitted frozen cherries are much less of a pain. They can go straight from the freezer into recipes such as smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods and sauces. Or, thaw a handful of this frozen food and add them to salads, salsas and yogurt for a hit of sweet-tart flavor. In general, fruits including cherries can be kept frozen for eight to 10 months before they deteriorate in quality.
3. Spiralized and riced veggies
Spiralized vegetables, like zucchini and beet “noodles”, and riced veggies such as cauliflower are all the rage among the low-carb crowd and anyone looking to sneak more vegetables into their diet. But when purchased fresh, or made at home in advance, they tend to go mushy fast. The extra surface area created when vegetables are broken down into zoodles or fine grains similar to rice can also cause sensitive vitamins and antioxidants to degrade quickly when sitting on store shelves or in your fridge.
The good news is that these low-carb options are available as frozen foods, too! This lets you use only what is needed and put the rest back in the freezer without the fear of wasting food and money. Luckily, they thaw quickly so don’t require too much forethought for meal prep.
We’ve got freezer recipes that’ll make it easy to make the most out of foods like these. Give these a try: