fresh fish

Fresh vs. frozen seafood…there’s always a great debate when it comes to which type of fish is better. As you decide which one is going to make it to your dinner plate, you want to consider:

  • Smell
  • Texture
  • Nutritional Value
  • Flavor

As you think about these fish factors, we’re going to dive into the fresh vs. frozen seafood debate to help you better plan your next meal.

How Fresh is “Fresh”?

When fish is advertised as fresh, how “fresh” is it really? If you’re buying fish at your grocery store, the fish may not be as fresh as you think. The fish that you see lying on that bed of ice is typically caught, frozen, shipped to a distribution center, shipped to a grocery store, and then thawed and labeled as “fresh”. 

It’s not uncommon for fish to thaw and be refrozen, only to be thawed again. As you can imagine, the quality of the fish suffers during the process. When you buy your fish from the grocery store, there’s no way of knowing how long the fish was thawed before it was refrozen and then thawed again.

What if My Fish Was Flash Frozen?

If you hear that fish was flash frozen, that means that it was frozen quickly when it was at the peak of its freshness. This is done by rapidly freezing food at low temperatures to prevent ice crystals from forming. With fish and seafood, the product is rapidly chilled to 32 degrees Fahrenheit and then flash frozen at -20F. This coats the fish in a protective layer of ice that prevents cellular breakdown. The process ensures the best quality, even through days of transportation, storage, and distribution before it gets to the grocery store.

The slower seafood freezes, the larger the ice crystals that form between the fibers of the fish’s proteins. This can impact quality and taste.

What to Look for in Fresh and Frozen Seafood

When you’re deciding between fresh and frozen seafood, you want to think about these factors:


You don’t want to have a strong or “fishy” scent in your fresh seafood. It should have a sea scent that can detect its freshness, but anything with an unpleasant odor could be a clue that your fish isn’t as fresh as you think it is.


The texture of your fish can tell you a lot about its freshness. Filets 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. Look for shiny skin, cherry-red gills, bright clear eyes in fish, and clean, closed shells for shellfish. Also, look for labels indicating it was caught in America.

Nutritional Value

Freezing fish does not reduce its nutritional content. Protein, fat, and vitamins are not affected by the freezing process. But, thawing the fish can reduce some of the water content. The water can contain some water-soluble vitamins and minerals. If you use all of the water lost from the fish when you cook, you can retain the vitamins and minerals. Since fresh fish doesn’t lose any water content, it won’t lose any vitamins or minerals.


Frozen fish can begin to lose its flavor over time. According to the USDA, frozen raw fish is best used within 3-8 months while shellfish is best used within 3-12 months. If you notice signs of freezer burn, it may be time to get rid of your frozen fish.

Storing Fresh Seafood

Storing fresh seafood is easy. Keep it wrapped in moisture-proof paper or in an airtight container to prevent both leaks and air from getting to it. Refrigerate it and use it soon after buying, preferably the same day.

Storing and Defrosting Frozen Seafood

To store frozen seafood, place it in your freezer kept at zero degrees. When you’re ready to use it, thaw it by putting it in your fridge for 8 to 10 hours before you plan to cook 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.

Looking for Fresh Seafood? Visit NC Seafood Today!

If you want a delicious, freshly prepared seafood dinner visit NC Seafood today! Come by for lunch or dinner at the Farmer’s Market in Raleigh or check out our menu and order online for pick up. You won’t be disappointed!