How essential is fresh seafood to you? Not nearly as much as you may believe. When grabbing materials for marinated cod tacos or a sweet shrimp soup, the wonder of high-quality freezing procedures and gourmet canned seafood techniques means distance from the pier doesn’t matter much.
During my research for my seafood cookbook, I discovered that many consumers interpret “fresh” seafood as “never frozen,” instinctively associating it with excellence. However, the quality of most fish begins to deteriorate as soon as it is caught, and the only way to stop this is to freeze or cook it, which means that the best seafood is frozen or canned at its prime.
The key to smart fish purchasing, whether in Dover or Denver, is realizing that “fresh” doesn’t always imply “best,” More crucially, it means almost nothing. Depending on the type of fish and how it will be used, the best fish may be canned, while the freshest fillet may be frozen. Understanding what each of these three styles brings to the table and how to capitalize on their strengths and shortcomings will save you money at the grocery store, reduce kitchen irritation, and amaze everyone you cook for.
When to Buy Fresh Seafood
Fresh, never-frozen seafood is a rare pleasure, far more unusual than most people believe: Many fish sold in supermarkets have already been frozen. Even those delicious bites at the sushi counter are frequently meticulously frozen at their prime. Typically, this is because it is simply better fish if it does not spend time decaying; however, certain fish, such as wild salmon, require freezing to clear them of parasites.
Consider purchasing truly fresh seafood only if you know exactly where and when the seafood was collected, which a reputable fish shop should be able to tell you, and you have a plan for when and how to consume it. Because these are special occasion treats, prepare meals that highlight the particular texture of fresh fish, such as steamed mussels or poached or pan-fried filets.
When to Buy Frozen Seafood
Frozen seafood works well for virtually everything, from a magnificent crimson side of slow-roasted wild sockeye salmon served as the centerpiece of a holiday feast to a handful of frozen shrimp tossed into a hot skillet for a quick, crowd-pleasing dinner.
Most fish freeze extremely well, and correctly defrosted fish is as good as, if not better, most “never frozen” items. Frozen fish is used by sushi counters and poke establishments equally, and you should as well, in whatever preparation you want.
One of the most significant advantages of frozen shrimp, small scallops, and slender fillets is that they may be cooked right from the freezer. To make a simple weekday dinner, toss them right into homemade or store-bought sauces, stews, or curries. Shellfish, except for shrimp, works significantly less well: There are frozen crab, mussels, and lobster, but they rarely compare to the fresh form. Fortunately, those same shellfish are delicious in canned form.
When to Buy Canned Seafood
Canning fish keeps many of the freshness characteristics. It alters the texture and flavor, but sometimes it just means cooking a finished meal one step forward.
Cooked and sealed into tins, cans, or jars, salt-packed, smoked, floated in oil, sauced, or spiced seafood compresses the just-caught flavor into a shelf-stable shape. So while frozen seafood stays in a home freezer for months, canned seafood stays in the pantry for years.
Canned tuna or pink salmon are inexpensive options on every grocery store shelf, and they’re great for meals like tuna casserole or salmon loaf. In addition, gourmet delicacies like smoked mussels, spicy octopus, or sardines in the hot sauce can be turned into a snack with just a can opener. Many meals work best with canned fish between these two extremes: clams in large cans for thick chowder, tuna in oil for an attractive salade Niçoise or anchovies packed with salt for a spicy bagna cauda dip.
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