Fresh fish are always better than frozen, right? Wrong.
Modern freezing techniques make many of the fish in the freezer section superior to those on the shelf nearby. Why? Because lots of fish are now frozen on the boat, just minutes after being caught, with flash-freezing units that maintain a temperature far below the typical home freezer. Many "fresh" fish are in fact previously frozen, and while reputable fishmongers will state this on the card identifying the fish, not all do.
Another factor leaning toward frozen fish is where you live: Do you live within 100 miles of the coast or Great Lakes? Then buy fresh fish all you want, so long as they are local and in season.
You can get excellent fresh fish inland, but the prices will be far higher and the game of roulette you're playing becomes significantly riskier.
Lobsters are a classic example: They don't travel well, and eating a live Maine lobster on the West Coast is the acme of foolishness -- they will be in poor condition and will be twice the price of the same crustacean in Bar Harbor or even New Jersey. Want Maine lobster in California? Best to get the tails flash-frozen. Incidentally, the same holds true for Easterners who want Dungeness crab.
Not all frozen fish are equal, however. I was recently at an Asian market and saw row after row of fish simply tossed into a styrofoam package and plopped in the freezer: I wouldn't eat that fish for any money. No, to find the best flash-frozen fish, you need to look for one of two things:
- A vacuum-sealed fish. These are always your best bet.
- A fish with a thick glaze of ice on it. This is an older method of freezing that does protect the fish well.