Seafood is a lucrative category that requires a thoughtful strategy to navigate. Utilizing wild or farmed, sourcing sustainable products, and executing unique preparations are just a few of the many details to consider when serving seafood. Another crucial component is choosing between fresh and frozen. Over the years, there have been countless misleading interpretations about both varieties, but the bottom line is that fresh and frozen seafood are both profitable options. As we debunk the long-standing misconceptions about fresh and frozen seafood, consider the unique ways that both of these catches can assist with maximizing your seafood category.
Fresh Seafood: From the Boat to the Plate
Freshness is ranked among the top 10 factors that influence seafood-purchasing decisions. With a boat-to-plate narrative, fresh seafood is a highly valued product that customers are always seeking. It has an all-natural label and desirable nutritional profile that meet customer demand for a clean, functional option.
A myth regarding fresh ﬁsh is that it’s always the better option. Fresh fish entices customers, elevates offerings, and boosts your bottom line, but only if measures are taken to preserve its high quality. Restaurants must have the ability to store and monitor the products properly, ensuring quality and food safety. Fresh seafood has an incredibly short life span of two to three days from the time it’s delivered, and operators must ensure that the fish served on its third day maintains its first-day freshness. Restaurants serving fresh ﬁsh should store it at temperatures between 30°F and 34°F. Whole fish should be covered in crushed or shaved ice in perforated pans that allow the ice water to drain. For fresh, portioned varieties, fish should be wrapped in moisture-proof packaging to prevent damage to the exposed flesh. Appoint someone in the back-of-house to be responsible for draining and re-icing the fresh fish daily. If sourcing fresh shellfish such as clams, mussels, and oysters, store them in high humidity. With a team dedicated to skillfully handle fresh products, sourcing fresh fish is an excellent option.
Since fresh seafood availability varies daily, it may also be a better choice for operators who can quickly adapt their offerings to different species (find unique seafood varieties on pages 11 and 12!). Another myth is that sourcing fresh ﬁsh must come from local regions. While consumers find value in and are willing to pay more for locally caught fish, they’re just as willing to try fresh exotic varieties and unusual species imported from desirable coastal regions. When strategizing on your menu, be sure to highlight the qualities of a fresh fillet with simple inflections such as shallots, capers, fresh herb oil, and cream sauces, or put a signature spin on seafood with worldly spices and seasonings. Our Peruvian Lobster Ceviche recipe gives fresh lobster an ethnic upgrade in a unique format. Contact your Maines Territory Manager to learn more about our fresh lobster program.
Frozen Seafood: An Increasingly Valued Option
For years, consumers claimed frozen seafood had an array of negative attributes, stating that it’s lesser quality, less nutritious, and filled with additives. However, today’s evolving freezing technology dispels these myths and creates convenient products that are just as high quality, nutritious, and flavorful as their fresh counterparts.Modern fishing practices freeze fish directly on the boat in fl ash-freezing units that maintain temperatures far below the typical freezer without the use of preservatives. The freezing technique has little effect on the anatomy of the ﬁsh, locking in its natural ﬂavor, texture, and nutritional content. With an extended shelf life, frozen seafood results in less product loss, making it a cost-effective option. It’s also incredibly sustainable, as fish populations are caught and frozen when they’re in-season. Capturing pristine quality seafood at their height of freshness puts less pressure on operators and allows them to serve peak seasonal catches year-round.
Another factor is that the extremely low temperatures of frozen seafood kill most of the bacteria (freezing can’t guarantee a completely pathogen-free product) and significantly reduce risks that cause foodborne illnesses. If your operation offers raw seafood in menu items like poke bowls, sashimi or sushi, tartar, or ceviche, frozen seafood products can help ensure food safety while delivering a flavorful, quality item. If seafood isn’t your restaurant’s specialty, consider utilizing frozen varieties in items where it’s a secondary element such as salmon cakes, stuffings, risotto, mac & cheese, chowders, and bisques.
With 81% of operators serving seafood year-round (Datassential), it’s essential to consider how the unique attributes of fresh and frozen seafood will impact your restaurant. Both options support sustainability, provide flavor-forward, nutritional choices, and boost profitability. But availability, customer demand, proper product handling, and personal preference are the traits that will ultimately affect your decision. At Maines, we provide a wide range of fresh and frozen seafood from valued and trusted purveyors. No matter what seafood selection you choose to serve, your Maines Territory Manager can help you source the perfect catch for your operation.