Fresh verses Frozen foodBack to Forum
Anonymous1 Oct 2011
Something a little different!
I get increasingly agitated when being charged top dollar (or sterling) in restaurants, only to be served Frozen food.
The most recent experience was a restaurant in the north of England charging £17.99 for grilled sea bass. What was served was clearly grilled from frozen. Not only was there a pungent smell, but also the taste was awful. It was sent back and replaced with a salad. When the establishment tried to charge for the fish, I crossed it off the bill, paid for the salad in cash and left. I later learnt that the grilled fish had in fact been reheated in the microwave!
About 2 years ago, I ate in a restaurant in Bangkok on Wireless Road which is famous for steak. My host suggested that I choose a Japanese steak as this was their speciality. A frozen steak was presented at the table with great pride for inspection and I didn’t have the heart to reject it, but I wish I had, because once it had been cooked, it was worse than a hamburger filled with chopped meat (I have since stopped eating meat, but NOT because of that experience).
I have to admit that I used to assume when eating in a “decent” restaurant that the food is fresh and not frozen. My question is, should restaurants have to mark on their menus, food that is going to be cooked and served from frozen or whether frozen food should be accepted without comment.1 Oct 2011
With UK restaurants’ increasing food facts (KCal, Salt , sugar, nuts etc) already clouding each item – making the menu less appetising I believe – and with some ingredients being better frozen (peas, beans etc), wouldn’t it be preferable to ask the waiter when concerned?1 Oct 2011
Interesting post Martyn, and one I sympathise with. At a chain called Ocean Basket in Knysna, they offer fresh or frozen line fish. The fresh is always a bit more expensive but always much nicer.
The sad truth is in Europe, unless you’re dining in a restaurant next to the sea, and are eating fish caught in season, it has already been frozen. The more so if it’s been fished off Canada, Iceland or Africa. Whether it’s been defrosted before being sold, or sold still frozen I don’t know.
There is no need for beef to be frozen. Kept chilled and uncut it can be hung for another 20 days without problem. It can then be sliced and cooked to order.
I can always tell if a steak has been frozen from the taste. I always ask beforehand, unless in a 2 or 3* and I’ll refuse it and send it back if it has that strange taste of a defrosted piece of meat.
Never accept frozen if it’s been billed as fresh and don’t hesitate to send it back.1 Oct 2011
Tete’s post came just before mine, and I agree, never hesitate to ask before ordering. I’ll usually add that if I find it’s been frozen, I’ll leave immediately and not pay for anything consumed. This usually elicits the truth.1 Oct 2011
TdC – to be perfectly honest, I feel shocked at the need to ask! May be its my expectations that need managing, but I do not think it is unreasonable to expect food to be fresh at £15.00 plus a serving.
As some establishments advertise “nut free” zone, I think it is fair to expect that decent restaurents advertising “fresh food” should have to mention foods being cooked from frozen.
In the States, it is far more common to expect meat and fish not to be cooked from frozen at “decent” restaurents.1 Oct 2011
I would expect most trawled deep sea fish that offload onto factory ships or fished over 3 days offshore will be to some extent frozen/highly chilled to retain freshness to market. Icelandic Cod being a case in point. Contrast with Thailand where one can usually choose live from the tank.
I agree steak does not need to be and should never be frozen for texture reasons (ice crystals distort) as well as taste. Canadian Lobster, Alaskan King Crab, New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels, Languoustine or Dublin Bay Prawns I would expect to have been frozen at some point in their journey to the table in New York or London.
As demand for any food product is now 365 as opposed to eating what is in season, freezing is the accepted way to satiate it.
Interesting article here from the New York Times – it asserts “if the sushi has not been frozen, it is illegal to serve it in the United States” and later that extreme freezing can be better than fresh as fresh can still mean it is over 24 hours since caught.
…rare is the sushi restaurant that tells customers upfront that they may be eating fish that has been in deep freeze for up to two years…
I accept your point Martyn, however as the above article attests one cannot assume anything. Even in a Michelin starred establishment if in doubt I would ask.
As an aside, am a lover of garlic and have learnt not to buy it between Dec-April being old and dry. Only new season from May-Sept for a superior fresh, mild flavour for me.1 Oct 2011
One of the things which Gordon Ramsay always says about resturants is that the more items on the menu, the more they are slaves to the freezer and microwave. That is very true, less is more?
Catering establishments have to balance between what they can sell and what they don’t throw away. Many foodservice companies supply certain foods as frozen as it is more economical, gets the best price, reduces waste for the end user. All of us have eaten food that has been frozen and not been able to taste the difference, anyone that says they can always tell, sorry its down to how long it is cooked after being defrosted, how it is cooked, in what it is cooked, how long it is left heated before serving. Many factors.
What Tete says above is quite right, many foods now demanded 365 days a year mean they either have to be frozen in season or frozen at source for the journey.
I don’t think establishments should mark whether something is frozen or not. As I say it depends on the quality, handling and cooking of the product.1 Oct 2011
Tete: No wondered I always find sushi sold in the US has a mushy texture!!!
I saw an alarming tv film recently exposing some of the 1 to 2 Michelin star restaurants in France using pre-package sauces and frozen ingredients. All related to cutting costs.
Fortunately most of the good restaurants in East Asia still refrain from using frozen foods as their regulars would condemn such practice!
Frozen-free eating!2 Oct 2011
I agree with MS – it would be beneficial if food contractors to the aviation industry displayed whether certain KEY ingredients were prepared from fresh as opposed defrosted before the preparation of an in-flight meal in Business or First class (after all your have essentially paid for a ‘Silver Service’2 Oct 2011
I generally avoid the “fresh fish” sushi dishes at some of the Yo style sushi places (conveyor belt food). Never has that FRESH taste and when I saw the pieces being unarapped from a box, my questions had been answered.
I accept what TdC states about 365 daqy requirements for foods and the need for food to be frozen. That was not my point.
If restaurents are charging top dollar for food, I think we can expect that the food is fresh (and no not freshly frozen!!). Frozen food is “generally” second rate in terms fo texture and taste and I think it is only fare that customers are informed by perhaps an asterix on the menu that when a particular item will have been delivered frozen.
Can you imagine the looks of disgust if frozen meat was used on the glorious 12th and the menu was priced as if it was freshly shot!!2 Oct 2011
Where a product is frozen and thawed to preserve or improve its quality (some of the best Sushi in Tokyo fits this description) I would have no issue. Where product is frozen to allow cheaper lower grade product to be shipped around the planet adn to make stock rotation easier for the outlet, I would run like h*ll.
Similarly soem prodcuts are better air freighted chilled, others are better kept a sea level and retarded with nitrogen atmospheres etc.
In light of this, I try to follow a vaguely macrobitotic dietary approach and eat local. So I would eat peas and leeks in London but not Hawaii and I eat tropical fruit in Hawaii but tend not to in UK.2 Oct 2011
some fish has to be frozen for a period I think 24 hours to kill the bacteria present otherwise serious illness or death can occur. In Italy if any item food is frozen it has to be declared on the menu.2 Oct 2011
I can remember several years ago being given sight of a catalogue from a company called Brake Brothers. They were catering industry frozen food suppliers and in it was almost everything you can imagine either made up or as consituent parts for the chef to assemble at prices that would suggest the mark up on restaurant food would be close on 1000%.
It made me very cautious and cynical as I’m sure that Brakes were not the only firm out there in this business. I now look at places that don’t have extensive menus and seem to have a throughput that matches the range of choices. I have asked the is it fresh question too often and now clarify it with ‘has it ever been frozen?’ I’ve had some strange answers to that the best one being in a very upmarket place in Dublin where the answer was ‘it was freshly frozen sir’.2 Oct 2011
Anoither topic that is relevant here is the type of freezing. Sushi and sashimi freezing in Japan is at a much lower temperarture than most commercial freezers in the west. There are also different ways to actually freeze, some of which cause product degradation through ice crystal size and burning and some of which prevent deterioration.
I find the fresh frozen element more compelling on raw food as cooked food is degraded from fresh by the act of cooking.
Interesting that pickling, smoking, brining and other prcesses for preservation are accepted and in the case of sushi even adored. No one one suggest avoiding Parma Ham, Smoked Salmon, Pickled Cucumbers, Salt Herring, Sun Dried tomatoes…2 Oct 2011