Frozen fish

If you have read the story of my stove about fishing nights on the Mediterranean, let’s get one thing clear immediately: eating fresh fish just caught, perhaps caught by you, is an experience that for its aroma, flavour and atmosphere can hardly be compared to any other dining experience.

Eating fish is good, indeed very good, we should introduce it at least twice a week in our diet, and fresh fish is not something we can keep in the refrigerator for a long time.

As the saying goes: the guest is like fish, after three days it stinks. I don’t want to talk about my or your guests here, mine are usually relatives or friends and I love having them at home for well over three days. But fish? Sometimes even after as little as two days, even if in the fridge, the appearance and smell show the clear symptoms of deterioration.

But what does fresh mean?

For those of you who live in a seaside location it probably means going to the harbour and buying fish directly from the fishermen when they return from a fishing trip. In any other case, the fish that we find at the fishmongers or supermarkets could be, if caught the night before, at least ten hours old.

If I go to a fishmonger here in London, where we all know there is no sea nearby, how can I think that the sea bass raised in Turkey or Greece has materialised here in less than a day?

It’s true that thanks to air transport it’s possible to find, at the general fish market or on the table of the best restaurants, the famous “catch of the day” (and you will pay for it accordingly), but what we find in the neighbourhood fish market or supermarket can only be defrosted fish, that is brought back to temperature after being frozen (and in the case of supermarkets also suitably vacuum packed).

Are you disappointed? You shouldn’t, because the method of lowering the temperature allows for optimal conservation of the fish, and usually takes place within two hours of fishing directly on the ships or upon arrival at the port.

Modern freezing methods allow the temperature to be reached very quickly as low as -30 degrees (this rapidity prevents the formation of ice crystals inside the fish, which in the defrosting and cooking phase could compromise the quality of the product).

Frozen fish at the local market
Photo by Bert Christiaens from Pexels

For this very reason, frozen fish represents a very valid alternative to fresh fish, and in some respects, it is even safer. In fact, with regard to frozen fish, it is necessary to know that:

  • it maintains the organoleptic characteristics and nutritional properties for longer than the refrigerated product, it seems that even the Omega 3 content is higher than in fresh fish
  • the regulations provide for strict quality controls so good companies only use selected raw materials, without preservatives and dyes
  • freezing blocks the proliferation of moulds and bacteria. This is especially true for Anisakis, the terror of lovers of raw fish, whose larvae are destroyed after 24 hours at -20 degrees
  • freezing and packaging of fish have a low environmental impact, infinitely less than a cattle farm! Furthermore, there is no need to wash the product before cooking it, so even less water is wasted
  • it is obviously more practical to cook, because it is already clean and portioned (we can only use the quantity we need) and it is not subject to seasonal availability
  • The freezing of fish allows to limit the waste, and for the final consumer the cost is much lower (not to mention that bones and scraps remain with the producer)

We can therefore consume frozen fish with satisfaction but remember that, in order to buy the best quality product, the cold chain must be ensured, so we have to pay attention to these things:

  • The type of fishing carried out, the date of collection and freezing and the place of origin must be indicated on the label (be aware that European laws impose greater hygiene and safety obligations than Asian countries).
  • Do not buy packages that have been tampered with or “wet”, or with evidence of ice crystals as they are synonymous of bad freezing.
  • Buy the fish, as well as all other frozen foods, at the end of your shopping so they will not stay long in your trolley, and transport them with a cooler bag.
  • The safest way to defrost it is to put the product in the refrigerator the night before. However, with small portions, or with seafood, you can proceed directly to cooking because there is no risk that the innermost part remains frozen. This way, all the juices will also be preserved and the flavour and aroma will be improved.
  • Obviously, once thawed fish cannot be refrozen. If you find yourself with defrosted fish, perhaps for a dinner cancelled at the last minute, cook it anyway and consume it within a couple of days by storing it in the fridge.

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