Where do you look for fresh seafood?
Many of us would make our way to a specialty fish market or the seafood aisle of our favorite grocer where a cornucopia of seafood is on display, usually displayed in ice. For those of you reading this from seafood hubs on the coast, you likely have access to fresh-caught seafood that has been out of the water for mere hours or days. But the rest of us must turn to the seafood counter. Unfortunately, it may not be the best place to find the freshest seafood money can buy — even if the fish is labeled “fresh.”
Unfortunately, the seafood counter may not be the best place to find the freshest seafood money can buy — even if the fish is labeled “fresh.”
The average piece of “fresh” fish at the supermarket has been out of the water for as long as two weeks and one study in the UK found that some supermarkets kept fish on display for up to three weeks! When fish is out of the water for that long — even refrigerated — its quality significantly declines.
The reasons for this deterioration are complex, but in short, unlike terrestrial meat sources like cattle and poultry, wild fish often live in habitats only 1°F or 2°F above freezing. While simple refrigeration halts most organic processes (aka decomposition) in beef or chicken, temperatures must be much lower when storing seafood to maintain its quality.
The science of quality
In a controlled taste test conducted by the Food Innovation Center at Oregon State University in 2017, food scientists discovered that blast-frozen fish samples exhibit less damage at the cellular level than their “fresh” counterparts.
Blast-frozen fish exhibit less damage at the cellular level than their “fresh” counterparts.
The reason has everything to do with how water concentrated in fish cells reacts to cold temperatures. Have you ever experienced “wet snow,” those large globs of snow that form when temperatures hover right around freezing? Ice crystals that form slowly grow quite large. However, if you drop temperatures rapidly, such as using a blast freezing technique, ice crystals don’t have time to grow and burst cell structures in food — a process that leads to mushy, flavorless food.
Even more telling, the same study revealed that taste testers preferred the taste of the frozen fish over the fish purchased “fresh” at the local fish market. In other words, what we consider “fresh” just hasn’t quite caught up with technology.
Taste testers preferred the taste of the frozen fish over the fish purchased “fresh” at the local fish market.
Many, if not most, fish on display at your grocery counter were previously frozen. If the fish was processed overseas, it has been refrozen, sometimes multiple times. Every time the temperature of a fish plunges, it has the potential to produce cellular damage in the form of "freezer burn" or burst cells leading to moisture loss and an off-taste and mushy texture. Just another reason to always buy frozen fish if you want the best quality seafood.
We source fish from fishermen who ice their catch as soon as it’s plucked from the ocean and keep them cold until they are delivered to our trusted partner processors. Many small boats such as the F/V I Gotta use a chilling method called "slush ice" which is a combination of ice and water which is actually colder than ice alone. Submerging fish in slush ice is a quality handling method that fishermen use to reduce the internal temperature of fish and ultimately increase the shelf life of fish. Then it's off to the freezer, where it’s blast-frozen (sometimes referred to as flash-frozen) to ensure that the fish you thaw for dinner has the same pristine quality as the day it was caught. Other small boats, such as the albacore tuna fleet, are called "freezer boats" because they blast freeze fish onboard and the fish remains frozen until it reaches the customer's plate.
Unfortunately, frozen foods still have a bad reputation because of historically improper storage techniques and shoddy shipping methods which have produced low-quality, mushy products.
That's why our team goes to great lengths to ensure that each portion of fish is meticulously handled — avoiding extreme temperature fluctuations, through constant monitoring and checkpoints — from when it’s blast frozen to sitting on your doorstep, perfectly packed with dry ice.
How do you protect your frozen seafood once it arrives at your doorstep?
Each subscription box consists of individually blast-frozen and vacuum-sealed portions that will last in a freezer at or below 0 degrees for three months after delivery before they start to decline in quality, but there are a few tips to make the most of this ultra-high quality seafood.
For example, the summer months bring the greatest threat to freezer technology thanks to power outages. A great way to protect your frozen seafood once it arrives is with a freezer alarm that can notify you the moment temperatures rise. Some members have reported losing valuable fish due to power outages or due to accidentally unplugging their freezers. Contractors, children, and pets have been known to unplug freezers or leave them cracked open, which can spoil hundreds of dollars worth of food. A freezer alarm will let you know if your fish is in danger so you can save your fish.