So is frozen food really as awful as Gordon Ramsay makes it sound on TV?

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I try to use fresh stuff all the time, and I have many friends with gardens I buy from as my area of South Carolina is big into agricultural and local farming. There's a lot of conversation on here about what and how to freeze things, was wondering if I could get some clarification.

From a culinary standpoint (again disregarding economics) which ingredients (not cooked then frozen foods) are perfectly capable of being frozen and what types of ingredients take the biggest hit when you use your freezer and don't buy/use fresh?

As second question...

On TV, Gordon Ramsay chews out restaurant owners infront of the entire dining room for serving a hamburger in which the uncooked ground beef arrived in a freezer truck and says the owner has 'pulled the wool over your eyes and served your FROZEN burger'....right? Or like infamous episode with Amy Bouzaglo, I believe he chewed her out for pouring tomato sauce out of a can.

I don't make tomato sauce yet. However, I take garden fresh basil, mushrooms, celery, parsley etc... and dump in the pan with the store bought sauce...even under a professional standard of culinary/restaurant/chef lingo, that would still be considered fresh...am I wrong? Perhaps there's a difference between claiming something is 'fresh' vs 'made from scratch'?
 
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Ramsay thinks that you should cook from raw almost always. A bought sauce is just laziness.

But there are products that are actually better canned or frozen.

San Marzano tomatoes gain flavor and color in the canning process; raw, they need a lot of work to use, and the work amounts to minimally-controlled canning. So if you want to use them--and they're very nice---use the very consistent and excellent canned product.

Baby/tiny/petit peas, frozen, are Superior to almost any fresh peas. Unless fresh peas are coming from your garden and used immediately, and you have time to she'll and sort (and deal with the very low yield of perfect peas), use quality frozen. Or don't use peas!

I find Ramsay inconsistent. That said, he's certainly a good chef. But between his personal oddities of style and the video editing done to make fun TV, I think you should be wary of taking his word as gospel.
 
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Ramsay is really talented and deserving of all accolades he has garnered. But some things he says really needs to be taken with a grain of salt... and in context.

Interestingly, I was reviewing a copy of The Hell’s Kitchen Cookbook yesterday in which the virtues (and frequent use) of truffle oil is discussed at length. Hmmmm.

It’s all about the quality of the final product and the honesty of the claims being made.
 
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“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Do side by side tests and use your palate to form your opinions. Figure out what works for you. Life is full of trade offs. It is all about give and take in order to find balance.
 
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I don't make tomato sauce yet. However, I take garden fresh basil, mushrooms, celery, parsley etc... and dump in the pan with the store bought sauce...

With less effort you could make a proper sauce. Get a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes and break them up either with your hands or with a potato masher. Saute some chopped onions and garlic in EVO for a few minutes in a stainless steel sauce pan then add the tomatoes. Simmer for about 20 minutes while stirring then use a stick blender to puree keeping in mind that you don't want ketchup, you want to have some chunks. Now add your chopped garden fresh basil. Let that simmer on low heat uncovered for an hour or two. That will allow it to reduce and become less watery. You should taste the sauce and adjust it with salt and sugar. Depending on the tomatoes it can be too sweet (add a few pinches of salt) or bitter and acidy (add sugar).

I have no idea why you are using mushrooms, celery, parsley etc. They have no place in a marinara or any other tomato sauce.
 
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I'm not a professional, but I cook a lot and with a budget. There are some things I gladly buy frozen and some things I never buy frozen that many home cooks often do.

Any fruit I plan to cook is almost always frozen (or canned in the case of tomatoes). Where I live, fresh peaches are never good. Berries can be great fresh, but if I know I'll be cooking them, I buy frozen. The tiny-if-any loss in flavor is an acceptable trade off for significant savings to me as a home cook, though I would think restaurants buying in bulk might not see it this way.

I think, and take my inexperience with as much salt as you like, the issue with frozen ground meat is moisture loss and food safety. That's why I would agree with frozen burgers possibly not being at their best. That and "ground fresh in-house burgers" is really good marketing.
 
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Fresh is always better and a good chef will always choose fresh over frozen whenever possible. In that sense, Ramsay is not wrong. Like him or hate him, Michelin doesn't hand out those stars easy.

However, freezing things is a part of the culinary world whether you work at McDonald's or Peter Luger's Steak House in NYC. Listing all the things that take well to freezing here would be unrealistic. But, generally, non cream soups, stocks, broths, red meat, poultry, pork, etc. can be frozen and if done correctly, suffer minimal side effects from the process. The same is true for some vegetables and herbs. For instance, rather than drying out my fresh herbs this time of year, I will package them in air tight bags and freeze them. When I go to use them in January, they will be almost as good as fresh and a lot better than dried. But, come January, beggars can't be choosers. :)

Some things just don't take well to freezing. Many fruits do not react well to being frozen, especially fruits that have high water content. Delicate vegetables like tomatoes (which is actually a fruit) don't freeze well either. Leafy vegetables typically don't freeze well either. But, there are exceptions. Spinach leaps to mind. But, I can safely that I have never made a spinach salad with frozen spinach. Other veggies freeze very well. Root vegetables like carrots freeze well. Generally, the heartier the veggie, the better it can withstand freezing.
 
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Unless you live on the coast, frozen seafood is often a better choice than "fresh", if you can even find it. It's flash frozen as soon as it's harvested then you thaw it just before you use it; that will often be better quality than something that was never frozen and losing its freshness as it was transported from the coast to whatever inland location you reside.

And I said, "if you can even find it". You may notice the descriptions of a lot of the "fresh" fish at your grocer's fish market, most say "previously frozen". So buying it "fresh" from them instead of still frozen is basically having them thaw it for you then letting it sit around a while before you buy it.

But yeah if you live somewhere where you can eat seafood the same day it came off the boat, that's better. We just don't all have that luxury.
 
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I have no idea why you are using mushrooms, celery, parsley etc. They have no place in a marinara or any other tomato sauce.

https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/pasta-tomato-mushroom-sauce

Because I followed the first recipe that showed up on google and I honestly didn't know any better...but duly noted :)

With less effort you could make a proper sauce. Get a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes and break them up either with your hands or with a potato masher. Saute some chopped onions and garlic in EVO for a few minutes in a stainless steel sauce pan then add the tomatoes. Simmer for about 20 minutes while stirring then use a stick blender to puree keeping in mind that you don't want ketchup, you want to have some chunks. Now add your chopped garden fresh basil. Let that simmer on low heat uncovered for an hour or two. That will allow it to reduce and become less watery. You should taste the sauce and adjust it with salt and sugar. Depending on the tomatoes it can be too sweet (add a few pinches of salt) or bitter and acidy (add sugar).

Aw! That sounds like fun! I'll give that a try this week :)
 
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But, generally, non cream soups, stocks, broths, red meat, poultry, pork, etc. can be frozen and if done correctly, suffer minimal side effects from the process.
Ah! There we go...that helps!! I was trying to figure out how much damage I'd do to a stock that took a good bit of time to make lol. I'll definitely keep that in mind about the meats too...I didn't realize there was a correct and incorrect way to freeze things.

Some things just don't take well to freezing. Many fruits do not react well to being frozen, especially fruits that have high water content. Delicate vegetables like tomatoes (which is actually a fruit) don't freeze well either. Leafy vegetables typically don't freeze well either. But, there are exceptions. Spinach leaps to mind. But, I can safely that I have never made a spinach salad with frozen spinach. Other veggies freeze very well. Root vegetables like carrots freeze well. Generally, the heartier the veggie, the better it can withstand freezing.
That's really helpful to know! Thanks a ton!
 
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Unless you live on the coast, frozen seafood is often a better choice than "fresh", if you can even find it.
I'm in South Carolina, 40 min from the coast. It helps make it a little more available, but by large I don't know that it changes anything for most home cooks (everyone is still buying farm raised Salmon brought in from god knows where).

And I said, "if you can even find it". You may notice the descriptions of a lot of the "fresh" fish at your grocer's fish market, most say "previously frozen". So buying it "fresh" from them instead of still frozen is basically having them thaw it for you then letting it sit around a while before you buy it.
I did notice that. lol...it did seem bit odd.
 
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That dish does look interesting but you can bet no Italian authored it. At least it's made with crushed tomatoes, not prepared tomato sauce like I think you said.

Sorry to say but this pasta dish sounds more Italian in method than your marinara sauce. Marinara doesn’t even originate in Italy so the sauce you describe is American at best. Do you know what happens to basil when you simmer it for 2 hours?

There are many ways to make a red sauce without simmering for hours on end. A couple of years ago I discovered this recipe by Marcella Hassman and haven’t found a red sauce that compares to it in flavor and simplicity. I add a considerable amount of garlic to it but it’s fantasric as is too. https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015178-marcella-hazans-tomato-sauce
 
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... and while I agree traditional Italian is good, let’s not be snobs and put down the rich traditions of Italian-American variants. Lots of American’s like them just fine. :)

Not at all. I would never judge a recipe or someone's cooking as good or bad as long as someone enjoys eating it. Cooking is as much creative as it is anything else.
 

pete

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A couple of things to remember about Gordon Ramsey. 1. This is television and you always have to take anything said with a grain of salt. Does he really feel that way about all frozen products, or does it just help build the drama? 2. Ramsey had some very high profile, expensive restaurants. He could afford to have farmers, and purveyors bringing him the freshest products from around the world. He could charge his guests whatever he needed to charge to cover the costs of super expensive, labor consuming products. Not many restaurants can afford to do that will all of their items.

That being said, there are frozen and canned products that are better than the fresh stuff that most restaurants can get their hands on, and there are times when fresh is definitely better. When it comes to ground beef, especially for burgers, I am in agreement with him. Frozen ground meat does not compare with fresh, and I really hate frozen burger patties. The taste, and the texture, just doesn't compare to fresh, hand pattied burgers. But as others have pointed out, sometimes canned or frozen is better as those products are often picked much closer to being fully ripe (processing plants tend to be relatively close to major growing areas) than produce that is going to be shipped fresh 1000's of miles away. Really ripe produce to ship well, so is picked under ripe and allowed to ripen in transit, but produce, for the most part, doesn't ripen as well off the plant as it does on the plant and in the sun.
 
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That dish does look interesting but you can bet no Italian authored it. At least it's made with crushed tomatoes, not prepared tomato sauce like I think you said.

Sorry to say but this pasta dish sounds more Italian in method than your marinara sauce.
HAZAN

... and while I agree traditional Italian is good, let’s not be snobs and put down the rich traditions of Italian-American variants. Lots of American’s like them just fine. :)

Hazan yes, awful spellcheck blunder.

I think the recipe the OP followed was fine so it’s unfair to say that it wouldn’t have been authored by an Italian.
 
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And if you read the reviews for the Marcella Hazan recipe you posted you will see that they are all over the place- great, good, horrible, no way Italian, doesn't compare with traditional marinara... everybody has their opinion. And unfair or not, you know what they say about opinions.
 

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