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Tallyrand's thoughts on frozen fish versus fresh

Frozen fish fillets can be just as good as fresh as long as they have been snapped frozen professionally. In other words, while at sea on the fish processing trawlers. The rapid process used (10kg boxes in matter if seconds) ensures the ice crystals within the flesh are minute which ensures minimum water absorption and minimum destruction of the flesh. If then transported home and stored correctly, when cooked (or defrosted) it should then be virtually indistinguishable from fresh fish fillets.

In fact frozen, in many cases can be better than so called fresh, unless you are getting it straight from the sea that is, and it is stored between -1C to 1C but how many times does that happen? Did you know:

  • If fresh fish is kept on ice from the time it is caught it has a ten to fourteen day shelf life?

  • For every hour fresh fish is not kept on ice that it loses a day off its shelf life?

Normally by the time fresh fish reaches us in a supermarket, all nicely filleted, packed, etc you will be lucky to get three days before it starts to go sticky, smelly and ready for the rubbish bin!

With regard to home freezing fish I have never had any luck with this. The process takes too long in a home freezer and the results are the opposite of the above, the ice crystals are too large, destroy the flesh structure and when cooked / defrosted you end up with waterlogged, tasteless fillets.

Cooking frozen fish - it is always best to follow the manufacturers instructions. Further to this:

  • If deep frying in batter - cook from frozen.

  • If deep frying in breadcrumbs - cook from frozen (although the bread-crumbing is more successful if done with defrosted fish fillets).

  • If shallow frying - defrost first. This is mainly a safety issue: the water within the fillets will likely cause the fat / oil to spit or sometimes the fillet can explode in parts.

  • If grilling - cook from frozen if thin fillets / steaks (maximum 3cm) or defrost if thick fillets / steaks.

  • If baking - cook from frozen if thin fillets / steaks (maximum 3cm) or defrost if thick fillets / steaks.

  • If baking in tinfoil - cook from frozen.

  • If baking in a crust / pastry - defrost first or the water within will cause soggy pastry.

  • If making a stew - cook from frozen if you can safely cut the fillet to size. Also allow for extra thickening of the sauce just prior to serving.

All the above should be carried out at normal cooking temperatures (as per fresh fish).

Defrosting fish

  • This should always be achieved slowly in the refrigerator. This minimises any chances of bacterial contamination.

  • Defrosting under water is not recommended as all flavour will be lost. The flavour of fish is salt based which will be washed away/dissolved in the water.

  • Defrosting in the microwave should be carried out if the fish is to be cooked straight away (within 10 minutes of defrosting). It should also be done if your microwave has a really good defrost cycle and the fish is no more than 3cm thick otherwise you will find the fish partially cooks and dries out.


  • Applies generally


Food and Cooking Tips
from professional
Chef Tallyrand


Born and raised in Plymouth, Tallyrand started his initial training as a chef at Plymouth College of Further Education. It was here that he was to learn his love, his passion for food and the culinary arts. From here he headed to Germany to complete his apprenticeship as Commis de Gardemanger.

Germany gave him his first taste of cooking for the rich and famous, as half way through his first year, along with the Sous Chef and a Chef de Partie, he was whisked off to Cologne to help prepare meals for a political conference, where amongst other dignitaries they cooked for Mr Brehznev, the then powerful Russian leader. This was to prove to be just one of the many celebrities he was to cook for or get to know over the years . . .

If you would like to find out more why not visit Tallyrand's own web site www.tallyrand.info (link in main menu)

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com