Kathleen Purvis Q&A

Which is better, fresh meat or frozen?

February 4, 2014 

Q: My son-in-law insists that fresh meat is better than frozen meat. Is he right?

A: “Better” is tough to define. Jerry Lanuzza, the interim dean of culinary education at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, is a purchasing expert, so I asked him.

Anything that is fresh should have more nutrition than something that isn’t – the older food gets, the more nutrition it loses. But frozen food can have more nutrition than fresh if it’s frozen quickly and efficiently, because it decays more slowly. Fresh food that’s been kept longer will have less nutrition than frozen.

Texture also is an issue. Will frozen meat be mushy when thawed?

“You want to freeze as fast as possible and thaw as slow as possible,” he says.

Commercial equipment freezes things faster than home freezers. When food is frozen quickly, the ice crystals are smaller, which means less bursting of cell walls and less loss of moisture. If you thaw it slowly, it has time to reabsorb any lost moisture.

To freeze meat faster at home, wrap it well to keep out air, then put it in a single layer on a metal sheet. Thaw the meat in the refrigerator overnight, rather than under running water.

If you handle it right, frozen meat should be just as good as fresh.

Email questions about food and cooking to Kathleen Purvis at kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com.

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