What is “Fresh Frozen” Food?

If you Google the term “fresh frozen” you’ll get more than a few references to one of Gordon Ramsey’s meltdowns on Kitchen Nightmares, where he throws a fit because a cook tells him “we keep it frozen fresh.” There is no such thing as fresh food that is frozen. Food is either frozen, or it is fresh. However, there are many frozen foods items that are referred to on the labels as fresh frozen. What could this possibly mean? Are they trying to say it is frozen and still fresh?

Ramsey would complain, no doubt, about foods labeled as fresh frozen. If they are frozen, they are not fresh! Well, that is true. But the term fresh frozen on a food label does not mean that the food is both fresh and frozen. It means that the food was frozen as quickly as possible while still fresh. An example would be the many types of fish that are immediately frozen right on the boat where they are caught. This also includes shrimp.

Regulations allow a few different ways of describing this, however. First, it would help to understand how the word fresh on food labels is regulated.

Fresh Frozen or Frozen Fresh

The terms fresh frozen or frozen fresh can both be used to mean that the food was quickly frozen while it was still fresh. It seems that the term fresh frozen is more often used, and this is probably because it is most open to a wrong interpretation. That is, consumers are more likely to think that it implies freshness, instead of how quickly it was brought to the freezer. “Frozen fresh,” on the other hand, will probably be interpreted as frozen while fresh. They both mean the same thing. The term freshly frozen can also be used.

Keep in mind that a fresh food can be blanched before freezing and still be called fresh frozen. This is because the blanching of some foods before freezing is not only common but required for certain foods, as a quick scald before freezing helps preserve nutrients.

Quickly Frozen

Quickly frozen does not mean the same thing as fresh frozen or frozen fresh. This term, instead of describing how fresh the food was when it was frozen, describes the freezing method itself, and how fast it is. Particularly, it refers to freezing methods like blast-freezing, which uses sub-zero (in terms of Fahrenheit) temperatures and super-chilled air “blasted” at the food. The quicker a food is frozen, in many cases, the better, in terms of quality and deterioration, so quickly frozen is usually a plus