In 1912, a food-obsessed Brooklynite named Clarence Birdseye moved to Labrador, Canada. There, he seen the Indigenous Inuits’ fishing practices: letting their catches freeze on the spot within the frigid, 30-below-zero air, preserving the ocean-fresh taste. After returning to the U.S. in 1917, Birdseye went on to develop the fashionable flash-freezing course of. His obituaries would name him the “father of frozen foods.”
Food manufacturing had already been industrialized — contemplate that Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, a harrowing account of the meat trade, was revealed in 1906. But frozen meals was by and enormous terrible. “When it thawed it was mushy and less appealing than even canned food,” writes Birdseye’s biographer Mark Kurlansky. Birdseye aimed to make frozen meals that was second solely to recent. Today, this appears like a paradox — meals that’s been frozen tends to be related to comfort quite than high-quality eating. But maybe that’s altering.
In November 2021, Kurt Oriol began Campo Grande, an organization that makes a speciality of high-end Spanish meals merchandise. Raised in Madrid, Oriol seen a gap within the U.S. marketplace for the Spanish meals of his childhood. His firm sources a spread of things from artisanal producers in Spain, from Iberico pork to vaca vieja beef, and to convey American shoppers a number of the basic seafood of Spain, Campo Grande presents a fish field with flash-frozen gadgets like European hake and Mediterranean child clams. Oriol hopes to sway clients on frozen fish. “People have a lot of prejudices about frozen fish from a bygone era,” Oriol says. “But when you bring a fish back to the dock and it’s butchered and frozen in the moment, it locks in all of the freshness. It pauses time.”
Campo Grande joins a rising variety of specialty seafood firms providing curated choices which might be sustainably sourced and of remarkable high quality. Their seafood merchandise might differ however all of them purpose to persuade shoppers of frozen fish’s many advantages: It’s excessive in protein and omega-3 fatty acids; it’s sustainable; and with a (freezer) shelf lifetime of as much as a 12 months, it’s handy for each on a regular basis cooking and dinner events — deliberate or impromptu. Unless you’re shopping for straight from the docks or reeling them in your self, frozen fish is often the freshest choice in the marketplace. It may be sensible and aspirational; spectacular and easy. If pantry-friendly tinned fish was 2021’s sizzling lady meals, perhaps frozen fish is subsequent.
“Fresh” fish tends to be a misnomer anyway. Explains chef Erik Slater, “Many people don’t realize that almost all seafood in the marketplace is frozen or previously frozen — from what’s served at restaurants to what’s sold at the seafood counter.” At Slater’s restaurant, Seward Brewing Company in Seward, Alaska, wild native seafood is a menu staple. He usually cooks fish straight from frozen, particularly throughout sure species’ off-seasons, to supply his signature dishes year-round.
Because the so-called recent stuff is extra inclined to dangerous micro organism and unsold inventory is often tossed, leading to meals waste, flash-frozen fish is commonly a safer and extra sustainable different. Add the comfort of residence supply, which most of at present’s firms embody free of charge, and choosing frozen appears a no brainer.
One factor’s for certain: The international seafood market is booming. At an estimated $113.2 billion in 2020, it’s projected to achieve $138.7 billion by 2027, and frozen seafood is driving a few of that development. According to specialists, previous strategies like air blast or cryogenic freezing have been impediments to high quality, as a consequence of sluggish freezing charges and the formation of ice crystals, which in flip damages muscle tissue and adjustments a fish’s coloration and texture. But now, rising strategies like stress freezing, ultrasound freezing, and electrically assisted freezing stand to vastly enhance the trade.
Some firms are already capitalizing on the most recent freezing applied sciences to supply the highest-quality frozen fish. Here, a number of to think about.
Frozen fish purveyors to strive
Campo Grande’s Spanish fish field reads just like the menu of a Bilbao seafood restaurant: thick filets of bacalao, meaty monkfish, juicy lubina, and extra, all from the waters surrounding Spain. Founder Kurt Oriol hopes to point out clients that much like meat — suppose Japanese Kobe or Scottish Angus beef — a fish’s heritage makes an enormous distinction. “When you try a Spanish monkfish, it’s different from the monkfish you get in the U.S.,” he says. “The same with the bacalao and the merluza — they’re different subspecies.”
Founded in 2017, Fish Fixe, which made a splash on Shark Tank, presents choose-your-own-adventure flexibility. Its customizable bins include each uncooked and premade seafood gadgets, from Norwegian salmon and wild-caught Gulf shrimp to jalapeno crab muffins and Creole-remoulade salmon muffins.
Sizzlefish founder Rob Mayo had been supplying fish to high-quality grocery shops like Whole Foods for 3 a long time when he determined to channel that have into direct-to-consumer gross sales. His subscription service delivers a wide range of sustainably sourced fish, like American purple snapper and wild Chilean sea bass, in reusable, recyclable coolers.
True Fin will notably attraction to followers of New England seafood. The Portland, Maine-based firm sells sashimi-quality, totally traceable seafood, like marbled bluefin tuna steaks and flaky pollock filets, from the Gulf of Maine.
Marky’s is a Miami- and New York-based caviar and seafood firm that makes a speciality of flash-frozen sturgeon (supply of the final word underwater delicacy, caviar). Founded by Mark Zaslavsky, a Ukrainian immigrant who moved to Miami in 1980 in pursuit of free enterprise, as he tells it, Marky’s presents a spread of complete sturgeon, from extravagant beluga to extra reasonably priced sterlet. The fish are raised in Sturgeon Aquafarms (Zaslavsky can also be managing accomplice), a Florida facility that opened in mild of the declining wild sturgeon inhabitants within the Caspian Sea, to supply a extra sustainable different.
Wild Alaskan Company
Known for its salmon, Alaska has a number of the best-managed fisheries on the earth; the state structure mandates sustainable fishing practices. Explains the Wild Alaskan Company, “we only take what nature can naturally replenish.” Founded by Alaska-born Arron Kallenberg, Wild Alaskan Company is a subscription-style supply service with sockeye salmon, coho salmon, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, and Alaska pollock.
Fellow Alaska-based firm Salmon Sisters, based by Aleutian Islands-born sisters Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton, presents sustainably harvested wild fish like sockeye salmon and Pacific cod. The sisters additionally give a portion of their every day catches to the Food Bank of Alaska “to support healthy Alaskan communities connected to traditional and local wild food.”
Like frozen fish itself, cooking with frozen fish is topic to misconceptions. Contrary to widespread opinion, “there’s no need to wait for frozen fish to thaw,” says Slater. “In fact, cooking from frozen is often easier than cooking from fresh because it’s harder to overcook. This makes cooking from frozen a great way for new or inexperienced home cooks to get comfortable with cooking seafood.” If you do select to thaw the fish first, he recommends eradicating the fish from its packaging and transferring it to a resealable plastic bag, then permitting it to thaw within the fridge for no less than six hours, or putting it in cool water for half-hour or so.
Slater says you’ll be able to poach, air-fry, bake, grill, or pressure-cook frozen fish. It’s a matter of choice. But to organize a filet, he recommends first rinsing the fish in chilly water and patting it dry with a paper towel, then brushing each side with olive, canola, peanut, or grapeseed oil earlier than cooking in whichever technique you select. (Slater advises in opposition to butter, sunflower, or corn oil, which burn at greater heats.)
Despite biases in opposition to frozen, the merchandise usually converse for themselves. “Even our chef customers who previously would never buy frozen seafood have found that our frozen products are the quality they’re looking for,” says Jen Levin, president and CEO of True Fin. “Awareness is growing that when a perishable product is frozen using high-tech methods when it is at its freshest, the quality can beat fish that was never frozen.”
Melissa Harrington, founder and CEO of Fish Fixe, echoes that sentiment. “Many of the early adopters of Fish Fixe were already fans of frozen seafood and knew the convenience and ‘freshness’ of it. But as we’ve grown and customers have found us in different ways, the product bags, recipes, instructions and dinner results were validation that frozen fish was indeed fresh and simple.”
In some locations, individuals have already fallen for frozen fish. Where I stay, in France, frozen meals has been widespread for a while, due in no small half to the ever-present frozen meals retailer Picard. Be it strip steaks, salmon filets, or pigs in a blanket, Picard merchandise are typically thought to be high-quality foodstuffs.
Recently, I invited a pal for dinner at my condominium in Paris and pan-seared a few frozen Pacific Ocean albacore tuna steaks, Picard’s most interesting, ending them with a drizzle of olive oil and some pinches of flaky salt. We opened a chilly bottle of Loire Valley chenin blanc and sliced into the meaty tuna steaks. It was restaurant-quality good and as recent because it comes — nothing paradoxical about it.
Caitlin Raux Gunther is a Paris-based freelance journalist with phrases in Bon Appétit, Saveur, T+L, Food52, and extra. She’s labored in eating places in Bilbao, Paris, and New York, and is at present engaged on a memoir about her time in Spain.