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With over 85 percent of all seafood consumed in the U.S. being imported, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most fish will be frozen before it hits the shelves. In some cases, the fish that’s labeled “fresh” isn’t fresh at all – it’s actually been frozen and thawed. And that’s only one reason buying frozen fish might be a smarter choice than fresh fish. Pick one of our top-rated fish recipes and get the lowdown on buying frozen below.
What is Flash-Frozen Fish?
Today, many fish are flash-frozen on the boat soon after being caught, thanks to modern boats outfitted with freezers. Farm-raised fish are often frozen on the spot as well. This ensures that your fish is preserved at peak freshness. To get the best-tasting fish, there are a few things to look out for at the grocery store. Be sure to choose a vacuum-sealed fish that has a thick protective layer of ice on it. Avoid freezer burn or crystallization, which indicates thawing and re-freezing.
Flash-frozen fish ensures that all of its nutritional value, flavor and texture are sealed in, versus a fresh piece that has been sitting out exposed for an unknown amount of time. Freezing fish can also extend the season of the fish, so when delicious summer fish like bass and catfish are caught, they can be sold and enjoyed into the winter. (Make this outstanding and super-fresh Lime Broiled Catfish any time of year.
Where You Live Matters
While you can purchase fresh or frozen fish just about anywhere, think about your location before you buy. Does it make sense to pick up fresh Maine lobster tails in California or fresh California clams in Maine? The fresh fish carries a risk you might not want to take, especially with something as delicious as Grilled Lobster Tails on the line.
Go for flash-frozen instead. The fresh fish may have been frozen and re-thawed or even stored improperly, and chances of that are much greater when you live in a land-locked area. Frozen fish will likely be less expensive too, particularly when purchasing a regional variety out of the region.
Thaw It Out
It couldn’t be easier to thaw frozen fish when the filets are in tight vacuum-sealed packaging. Just fill a bowl with hot water, place the fish in a Ziploc or other plastic re-sealable bag, and allow to sit in the water until the filet has some elasticity. Leaner fish, like tilapia and cod, don’t need to be thawed and can go straight from the freezer to the oven or stove. From there, it’s a snap to prep your favorite fish dish like brown sugar-glazed salmon or baja fish tacos!
Ready to start shopping? Don’t forget these other smart moves at the grocery store. Then get dinner started with our super-quick fish recipes below.