raleigh calabash style seafood

If you’re wanting to prepare a delicious seafood dinner, most likely, you’ll head to your local grocery store to get what you need. You see fresh fish lying on piles of ice that look appealing but there is also the same type of fish that’s neatly wrapped in a nearby freezer. Which one will deliver the best flavor, texture, and nutritional value? Our Calabash seafood restaurant in Raleigh is diving into the fresh vs. frozen fish debate to help you plan your next meal.

Ocean Fresh Seafood at the Grocery Store

While fishmongers and fish markets often have beautifully fresh seafood, much of what is sold is local and seasonal. For example, Dungeness crabs are caught on the West Coast so a Seattle fish market may have ample supply of them. Here in North Carolina, shrimp, bluefin tuna, flounder, and catfish are great options for a fresh catch!

When it comes to “fresh” at your grocery store, that’s more of a stretch simply because of supply chain issues of being purchased from commercial fisheries and distributed. What you’re seeing lying on a bed of ice has most likely been caught, frozen, shipped to a distribution center, shipped to a grocery store, then thawed and presented with “fresh” used as a marketing term. It’s not uncommon for the fish to thaw and be refrozen then thawed again. Needless to say, the quality of the fish suffers during this process.

Flash Frozen Fish

Once a fish leaves the water, the quality immediately begins to deteriorate. Flash freezing is designed to stop that process. With fish and seafood, the product is rapidly chilled to 32 degrees then flash frozen at -20 degrees. This coats the fish in a protective layer of ice that prevents the cellular breakdown and ensures the best quality, even through days of transportation, storage, and distribution before it even gets to the grocery store.

Choosing Fresh Vs. Frozen Fish

When you’re at the store and you’re looking for shrimp, scallops, or your preferred entree, whether you buy fresh or frozen, you want to let your senses be the judge.

Fresh Fish

  • Smell: There shouldn’t be a strong or “fishy” scent. Good, fresh quality has a sea-scent, but not an unpleasant odor.
  • Texture: Fillets and steaks should look moist, firm, and fresh. There shouldn’t be a dry appearance or an excess of liquid in either fish or shellfish.
  • Sight: Look for shiny skin, cherry-red gills, and bright clear eyes in fish, and clean, closed shells for shell fish. Also, look for labels indicating it was caught in America.

Frozen Fish

With frozen fish, the biggest thing to look for is signs of freezer burn.

Storing and Defrosting Fish

If you’ve chosen the perfect option for your meal, whether it’s fresh bluefin tuna or frozen scallops, the next step is properly storing it, and, if it’s frozen, thawing it. Otherwise, all the effort put into choosing the best quality may be for nothing.

If you need to know how to store fish you purchased fresh, simply make sure you use it almost immediately, preferably the same day. Keep it wrapped in moisture-proof paper or in an airtight container rather to prevent both leaks and air getting to it. To store fish that’s frozen, simply place it in your freezer kept at zero degrees, preferably using it within the month, but more sturdy fish like halibut, cod, and salmon can be stored for four months in a freezer.

How to Defrost Fish and Seafood

When you’re ready to thaw your seafood, simply keep it in the refrigerator for 8 to 10 hours before you plan on cooking it. Keep it wrapped in the package on a plate or resting in a shallow pan to catch any liquid that may seep out. While chicken and beef can be thawed in a microwave or in cool water to speed up the defrosting process, don’t try to do this with fish or seafood as you’ll lose flavor and texture.

Leave the Cooking to Us – Get Dinner at NC Seafood Today!

If you want a delicious, freshly prepared seafood dinner, from Calabash-style catfish to broiled flounder, let us do the cooking! Come by NC Seafood for lunch or dinner at the Farmer’s Market in Raleigh, or check out our menu and order online for pick up.