Luke's Flash-Frozen Seafood 101
By Ben Conniff, co-founder
Is frozen seafood any good, or should I always eat fresh?
Frozen seafood can be just as good as fresh, and in some cases better if your fresh seafood is in a hold out at sea for days before it even gets to land, or is going through a long transport/distribution process (neither is applicable to anything we sell, just good to know!). We generally freeze our seafood so it’s always available, even out of its normal season; to distribute it in grocery stores like Whole Foods; or for your convenience, so you can stock up and use it when you’re ready...and yes, that was us dropping a HUGE hint to order your seafood for holiday dinners now so you don’t have to fret about potential holiday shipping issues.
Our frozen seafood won’t ever be better than fresh, but it will be just as good because we freeze it the best possible way, provided you thaw it the best possible way. We’ll explain both sides of the equation here.
Is all seafood frozen equal?
NO! There are many methods of freezing, from throwing something in your home kitchen freezer, to high tech liquid nitrogen tunnel freezing, and a lot in between. Some seafoods will hold up will to even the most basic kitchen freeze, while others are delicate and their quality will diminish significantly without a very fast freezing process. We don't recommend buying frozen seafood from a company that doesn't know or isn't thoughtful about how their product is frozen!
We freeze in a liquid nitrogen tunnel, probably the fastest, most high-tech way to freeze in the industry. Lobster meat is very sensitive to freezing and thawing, so to preserve fresh-like sweetness and texture, it needs to be frozen as fast as possible and thawed slowly. Freezing fast (our lobster meat goes from 40 degrees to negative 15 degrees in under 15 minutes) means the ice crystals that form in the tissue are microscopic, so they don't rupture the proteins in the lobster meat. When you thaw the lobster slowly, most of the moisture that's trapped in those tiny crystals gets reabsorbed in the meat. With larger crystals, that moisture would come rushing out, leaving the meat chewy and less flavorful.
Some of our species hold up very well to cheaper methods of thawing, including throwing it in your home fridge. Scallops and halibut both fall in this category, so don’t be shy when those are fresh in season about ordering more than you can eat right away, and putting the balance in your freezer! But we don’t recommend this for lobster, so only buy the amount of fresh lobster that you’ll get through in a few days from when you receive it; if you want to stock up, buy the frozen.
Ok, so how do I thaw?
Most people don't realize how important proper thawing is to the quality and safety of your food. If there's one thing you take away from this content, it should be that the right way to do it is LOW and SLOW. Low meaning at a low (i.e. refrigerator) temperature, and slow meaning pull it well in advance so it can get fully thawed without you having to rush the process.
When you slowly thaw your seafood in the refrigerator, the ice crystals that have formed in the tissue will slowly melt and the moisture will be reabsorbed into the meat, causing minimal disruption to its flavor and texture. If you try to speed up thawing by doing it at a warmer temperature, running water over your seafood, or putting it in the microwave, those ice crystals will melt too fast, that moisture won't be reabsorbed, and your seafood will be dry, chewy, and lacking flavor. So here are the big dos and don'ts:
Take your seafood out of the freezer 36-48 hours before you plan to eat it. Put it in the refrigerator, on a shelf where it has some space around it and isn't crammed in next to everything else in your fridge. The air flow around it will help it thaw. Once it's thawed, use it within the amount of time appropriate for the product, which for us will be listed on the box, or on our website's product info page.
- Put seafood out on the counter to thaw. Not only will this hurt the quality by thawing too fast, it's also unsafe because the product will be sitting at a temperature that fosters bacteria growth for too long to be safe.
- Run seafood under water to thaw. This is a safe thing to do in an emergency, but your seafood meal is a celebration, not an emergency! If you thaw this way you will be disappointed in the quality of the seafood compared to fresh or slow thawed.
- Thaw seafood in the microwave. See above, but multiply the negative quality effects by...a bunch.
When it comes to thawing seafood, good things come to those who wait. We've made the investment in perfect sourcing cooking, picking, packing, freezing, and shipping so you can have perfect seafood. Don't let that slip away with a rushed thaw!