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Gordon Ramsay's number two complaint (we know the first...) is that the food was frozen. But I am confused about the specifics. Does he mean the meat was not thawed before cooking? Does he mean that after being placed in a freezer meat cannot be "saved" even after thawing?

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In the case of Gordon Ramsey, many of the times that he'd complain about frozen food, it's because the restaurants are buying already prepared foods in bulk, and just reheating them (eg, ravioli). In one case, the restaurant would prepare food for the week, and then freeze portions of it, rather than making it fresh each day. In the second case, there's also an increased chance of food poisoning if you don't cool the food down quickly enough. – Joe Jan 16 at 19:26
    
@Joe so the freezing itself is not inherently bad, it is reheating pre cooked frozen food? – Bar Akiva Jan 16 at 19:44
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I wouldn't go that far. Freezing has issues -- it can change the texture of things, especially meats and fruits. If not stored properly, 'freezer burn' can be a real problem, leading to bland food that just seems off. Mind you, there are some times when frozen might be preferred over fresh -- if it has to be trucked in from long distance, frozen is less likely to rot in transit. Some frozen items (eg, peas & corn) are frozen quickly after harvest, and are often better (and way cheaper) than off-season stuff. Although in that case, it might be better to change the menu for the season. – Joe Jan 16 at 19:56
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A fundamental problem with freezing is the formation and growth of ice crystals. Those are hard and sharp as well as taking a different volume than water. As they form/grow, they tend to partially destroy the surrounding tissues, tearing cells from inside. (That's generally the biggest problem with cryogenics.) Texture and flavor is changed, though it's much more obvious to the experienced palate. – user2338816 Jan 17 at 1:15
up vote 12 down vote accepted

I like chef Ramsay, he can be snobbish and course at times but he knows food and he's a straight shooter and tells it like it is.

Sometimes he's just saying the food isn't hot or even warm in the middle, but some times he is referring to frozen vs fresh ingredients. Most food is better when it's fresh, because freezing destroys cell walls and breaks down some materials. For everyday cooking that may be just fine, but when you are charging a premium for your meal, he expects top notch and I agree with him.

Just to put a foot note on it, try this at home. Steam some broccoli, side by side, use fresh broccoli and frozen and see what the difference is. It's quite a huge gap.

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The key point is that it's not that there is something wrong with frozen (especially for the home cook), it's just that fresh is usually better. -- I say "usually", because frozen produce can be better than off-season produce that was picked under-ripe to ship halfway across the globe. – R.M. Jan 17 at 0:37
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The first half of your answer seems to be a critique of Gordon Ramsay, rather than an answer about frozen food. – David Richerby Jan 17 at 2:05
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The question specifically called out chef Ramsey, and I addressed that part with my thoughts. – Escoce Jan 17 at 4:49
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Cell wall destruction from freezing is definitely an issue. Anyone having sashimi that's never been frozen (it's against the law to serve unfrozen raw fish in the USA) will notice the difference right away. That said, sometimes the effects of freezing seem to be positive. For example, I find if I make a tomato sauce from scratch, it often tastes better after it's been frozen and thawed. Perhaps the cell wall destruction releases some flavors from the tomato or onion or the consistency is improved by cell wall destruction. Normally veggies and especially meats are worse after being frozen. – Todd Wilcox Jan 17 at 5:56
    
@ToddWilcox you will note that is why I said "most food". Tomato sauce AND tomatoes for sauce do seem to be improved by freezing over night. – Escoce Jan 17 at 15:15

There are a few more problems with frozen ingredients that might not be obvious at first:

  • The cut of the ingredients is usually already defined by how the factory did it, and might or might not be as desired, be it for textural, cooking behaviour, or presentation reasons.
  • There is always more free water in what you pour out of a freezer bag versus what fresh produce has, whether used thawed or frozen. Also, you have to pay attention not to actually pour lumps of ice out with the ingredient in some cases. The difference can be enough to upset dry, high heat cooking methods (stir frying, deep frying, roasting), and dilute sauces more than wanted.
  • Proper thawing might (in hours) take longer than acquiring and using some things fresh.
  • Some things are hard to portion while frozen, and thawing them whole affects the quality of the unused portion too...
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