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May 21, 2009 11:14 PM

Previously frozen fish

I don't get it. Unless your fishing yourself isn't all fish previously frozen. Out to sea fish put on ice and frozen for days. I usually avoid buying previously frozen (not sure why now) and had no choice the other day. It was quite good. What's the scoop?

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  1. Frozen fish can be good if it's frozen properly. The length of time frozen is also an issue. The reason frozen fish gets an unmistakable frozen fish taste is because if frozen improperly, there are cells or cell walls that burst open and leek some kind of nasty taste into the meat. I go meat fishing at least twice a year (salmon) and bring home a good 30 lbs of fish. It can be frozen for about a week, and noone would be able to tell the difference between fresh and frozen at that point. After that, it gets a little sketchy. If I vaccuum pack it properly, I can get 6 months out of it, but I can still tell it's frozen. If you have a good source for frozen fish, roll with it. Just remember, when you get some that's not so great, you can't be expecting the world. I simply won't buy frozen fish. If I can't smell it, I ain't buying it. That's my number one rule of fish. I grew up on a coast, maybe that's got something to do with it. Fishy tasting fish is completely unacceptable. It means it's no good.

    1. The frozen fish at Trader Joe's is usually pretty good in my experience. It seems to be glazed in ice and then vacuum packed, which is much better than the frozen stuff you find loose in bags in the frozen sections of most supermarkets. It always smells fresh and holds its texture well when defrosted overnight in the refrigerator. It's handy to keep in the freezer for when I don't have time to stop at one of the better fishmarkets to pick up something more local.

      3 Replies
      1. re: David A. Goldfarb

        "It seems to be glazed in ice and then vacuum packed"

        That's probably an IQF product.

        1. re: Fritter

          I'm fairly sure it is. It's also filleted very neatly, though sometimes the portions may be awkward sizes. Like to make up a relatively uniform sized package, they might include a large and a small piece of salmon, instead of two of about the same size. Sometimes the fish is also skinned, sometimes not, and there are occasions when I want the skin, but it isn't included.

          1. re: David A. Goldfarb

            We get whole Salmon in my Albertsons down here in FL. 2.99 for a whole salmon 20+ lbs. Big sucker trust me. Well I buy the whole fish. I cook smoke 1/2 and then cook 1/4 and then freeze the other.Freeze in a small baggie and then in a large baggie that I fill with water and then put the smaller baggie in. Don't ask me why, it just works. I don't have a sealer but a old fisherman gave me the tip and it works. I freeze a few pieces, cook the others to eat. Save 1-2 pieces for crab cakes and then smoke the the other half which I love.

            Smoked salmon is great for quesadillas, smoked salad (like tuna fish), smoked salmon Caesar salad and just plain. I love it.

            We get tuna vaccume packed but most not.

      2. What I mean is... the fish you see in the fish counter that is NOT frozen but is labelled previously frozen fish. Isn't all fish previously frozen when caught out at sea? Still don't get it.

        4 Replies
        1. re: shaebones

          Most fish, even the ones at the grocery store are previously frozen and they will normally state that or a descent fish guy will tell you that. I have a friend who runs a fish boat, they put everything on ice. Some time it goes directly to markets that will sell it fresh. But yes it does sit on ice and gets pretty cold. Others will freeze the fish until it is shipped. I'm sure there are exceptions where local boats come in and the seafood goes directly to the market but they are still on ice. Locally we have some guys bring back fresh fish, yes it goes on ice but it is fresh but they also sell salmon, Now I highly doubt it is fresh but they call it fresh, but I am sure it has been frozen at some point. It is was caught this week and had to make it's way in from fishing, packed and shipped from AK to FL, more than likely it was frozen.

          I understand your confusion because if frozen once, weather or not it is frozen now or not it was frozen. Simple.

          Good point that if it smells fresh, it is fresh, smells fishy NO. I have bought frozen in a bag, Pre frozen from the counter and fresh. All descent. I got fish from Whole food cuz everyone raved, it was horrible and over priced. If I don't catch it I buy frozen or pre frozen. It is fine. For a dinner party I would go to a local seafood market but more than likely, some of that is frozen too. I buy what looks and smells good.

          I got pre frozen tuna at Albertsons for 5.99, my local market had it for 15.99 and Whole foods for 20. Some sesame seeds, soy and pan seared and it was amazing. I just can't afford fresh on a daily basis. I also got some salmon the other day which smelled great and tasted just as well. 3.99 lb Pre frozen too. I don't mind.

          1. re: shaebones

            "Isn't all fish previously frozen when caught out at sea?"

            NO! You can get a lot of fresh fish. Do you see any whole fish at the market? Wild fish that has never been frozen is in season. Salmon flown from AK, Day boat scallops and some domestic shrimp are just a few you can find fresh. Here if I hit the fisheries the right day I can get fresh whitefish and lake perch.
            Iced is not the same as frozen. Many large fisheries do process and freeze the product at sea.
            Labeling products previously frozen is a very good practice by your fish monger. It's honest and helps the average consumer.

            1. re: shaebones

              hi i own a fish store and some of the answers people give you are incorrect. especially you cause u live in boston can go to your local fish store and get fresh fish. this fish is caught at sea and packed on ice- not frozen , it just insures the freshness if you are buying fresh (bright eyes, red gills, no smell) then the fish should not be more than 2-3 days old. if you are buying previously frozen or flash frozen fish that means the fish was caught and then brought to shore to be proccessed and then frozen - try to by iqf frozen- much better.

              1. re: fishcraver

                But if you live in Tucson you generally HOPE that the fish has been frozen, I'm guessing. In fact, I'll ask for the still-frozen stuff they have in the back that they stock the display cases with a lot of the time.

            2. This depends a lot on where you live and what fish you're eating. Most deep sea fish are frozen no matter what, as those boats are out to sea for several days. Day boat fishermen are becoming more and more rare. I used to have no trouble finding stripers, scup, porgies, shad, and bluefish at the right time of the year. Some of the older folks in Connecticut tell me about salmon and black sea bass once having been fished along our coast. These days it can be difficult to find any fish from the water that's a mile from my front door.
              As for quality, it depends how you're going to cook it. Fish that has never been frozen is easier to grill, but you can grill it either way if you know what you're doing. Previously frozen fish doesn't sear nearly as well as never frozen fish. For poaching or baking, previously frozen might actually be better.

              8 Replies
              1. re: danieljdwyer

                " These days it can be difficult to find any fish from the water that's a mile from my front door"

                That's not unusual in a lot of markets. Even 20+ years ago when I worked in Florida a huge portion of the fresh grouper and snapper was sent to Boston and NY where it would fetch top dollar. Many "local" restaurants served grouper and snapper from Mexico and S. America because it was frozen and a fraction of the price.
                I'm in the greater Detroit area now and I see fresh porgies and strippers in the Italian markets here.

                1. re: Fritter

                  Unfortunately, we don't have strippers in our Italian markets. I think that violates health codes.
                  I think in the case of Long Island Sound, overfishing and habitat destruction are more the culprit than exportation. They like our shellfish in New York and Boston, but they want fin fish (and lobster) from cold, deep, salty waters. The Sound is shallow, warm relative to the rest of the Northeast, and half as salty as the ocean. It's also rapidly becoming a barren body of water.

                  1. re: danieljdwyer

                    It's not the health codes, it's the morality codes; and we got lots of them in New Haven!
                    When possible, I always carry bait in my wallet for catching those strippers!

                    1. re: Scargod

                      Wow remind me to never go to New Haven! LOL
                      Here we even have pasties as a specialty!

                      1. re: Fritter

                        I may have to do a stripper en croƻte tonight. That is, if I have enough pasties.

                  2. re: Fritter

                    I can count only 3 where I can get fresh grouper and snapper here is FL, stone crab etc when in season. But when you see a whole fish very often not fresh, but there are exceptions, but most are fresh or pre froze etc, but over all, but a descent fish guy local store or fish market and if the fish smells good it is fresh. My Albertsons and Publix both ... not a fish market but descent fish. I got some awesome scallops, fresh (well pre frozen salmon and even some orange roughy. I would be happy to serve that to anyone including company. It just depends what they have in at that time. Sometimes I hit the fish market.

                    1. re: kchurchill5

                      Any time you see a whole fish it should be fresh unless it is H&G. If you freeze a whole fish the gills and eyes tell the story. There are plenty of H&G "whole" salmon that get frozen. Whole meaning not broken down into steaks or fillets.

                      1. re: Fritter

                        I buy whole salmons all the time, I smoke and cook the whole thing. My guy usually will cut in for me in 2 large filets but I pay the price for the whole fish. But the cost is cheap. Yepper not pretty eyes when frozen, lol. Well I do love getting fresh whole when possible. Not always

                2. Off topic from the OP, but since it's been brought up, by law, markets have to post if the fish is fresh or previously frozen AS WELL AS the country (not continent) of origin. This came from my local Albertson's meat guy. He was telling me of a different store that was sued for posting an incorrect country. (Don't ask me how the sue-er knew). Bagged seafood has to carry the same info.

                  As to freezing fresh fish, my aunt always puts the fish in a container (milk cartons/jugs) and backfills with water to freeze. Growing up on the coast in MS, we'd go to the docks to get our shrimp. The shrimpers would always have the shrimp ON ice, but not frozen.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: CocoaNut

                    To my knowledge flash frozen is safer and generally a better method of keeping fish and getting them to people fresher. Many, if not most fish is frozen to kill parasites or worms. Fish "on ice" is not frozen and not all freezing will guarantee fish without worms. They must be frozen to a very low temperature, by law.
                    I just had Copper River wild, fresh salmon, from BC. Amazing fish that was very firm and red and grilled beautifully. I left it raw in the middle. It was just fantastic (and should have been), for $27/lb. A pound made three, generous portions. I would have it over a steak any day!
                    I, too have frozen fish I've caught in water.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      Salmon does seem to freeze especially well.
                      On the food safety end of things, I don't know much but trust the idea of flash frozen fish being safer. However, I've often wondered about the idea of the freezing killing the parasites. I understand how it kills the worms, as most complex life can't survive being frozen, but what about viruses and bacteria? Freezing chicken certainly doesn't eliminate - or, even reduce much - the chances of catching something nasty from an undercooked bird. Are the bacteria and such in fish just more cold susceptible? Or is the flash freezing process fundamentally different enough than plain old freezing to render things safer?
                      Also, I'm not sure how accurate this information is, but I've heard many time that shellfish shouldn't be frozen. I've been told that shrimp and such don't carry the sorts of bugs that freezing kills, and freezing is obviously not kind to shrimp. I can't imagine frozen bivalves.

                      1. re: danieljdwyer

                        "freezing is obviously not kind to shrimp"

                        You lost me there. A lot of shrimp are frozen. Not that I wouldn't prefer fresh but frozen shrimp hold up quite well. A lot of sushi is previously frozen to kill parasites. Mussels are often frozen.
                        IQF freezing or flash freezing can take the fish to much lower temps. IIR the USDA has a conversion table for how long it must be frozen to kill parasites based on the freezer temperature.



                        1. re: Fritter

                          I'd say the majority of shrimp is frozen, and I'm not saying it's bad. But it's almost a completely different product than fresh, preferably live shrimp. Same goes for lobster, crab, crayfish, and any other crustaceans I've had the pleasure to eat. I'll buy them live, fresh, or frozen, but I'll use them for rather different things.
                          And I know that mussels are frozen for sale is many places, but I still can't imagine it. I've never eaten one that wasn't either right out of the water and still alive, or that died while being cooked. Unless you count New Zealand mussels, which can be very good in a flavorful enough dish, but I find lacking when simply steamed.
                          I'm not one who doubts the scientific evidence at all in these things, but I still don't understand it. Would flash freezing for a certain amount of time make raw chicken safe? If not, what are the differences between the parasites in fish and the parasites in chicken? Are the only parasites they're talking about with fish multi-celled critters like worms, not viruses and bacteria as I'm imagining?

                          1. re: danieljdwyer

                            "Would flash freezing for a certain amount of time make raw chicken safe? Are the only parasites they're talking about with fish multi-celled critters like worms, not viruses and bacteria as I'm imagining?"

                            Wow that's a loaded bundle of questions my friend that I'm not sure even McGee would tackle. I'm not a scientist or a biologist and I'm certainly not McGee. I'll take a stab at helping but it may well be just that so take it FWIW.
                            As far as making chicken "safe" I think you would need to define "safe".
                            Freezing AFAIK will not kill a virus. A virus is typically immune to
                            anti-biotics. Bacteria is not in most cases. A lot of farm raised animals are given anti-biotics. That won't stop the spread of E. coli if the butchering process is not clean. Salmonella and E. coli are often spread that way. We all have E. coli in our system. We require bacteria to live.
                            AFAIK not even cryogenically freezing will kill a virus. Think of the nasties the CDC keeps "on ice".
                            Parasites in chicken (AFAIK) are a non-issue in N.America since we do not consume raw chicken.
                            Freezing will kill worms as in the case of seafood or flesh with trichinosis.
                            Viruses and bacteria are single celled.
                            There are foods approved for irradiation that could eliminate E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter as well as other bacteria and parasites.
                            Cooking flesh to a proper temp kills both the bacteria and virus's typically associated with food borne illness.
                            I think the most important thing the average consumer can do is handle their own food safely and follow basic guidelines. I'll leave a link for that for those who may be interested.