Why does fresh food taste better than frozen food?


This can be subjective of course, but generally speaking it is accepted that fresh food tastes better. What exactly happens in the food that makes it lose taste after it has been frozen?

In: 2

Try this analogy – which seems to help make the case:

Imagine you’re drawing a picture with really bright, colorful markers. When you’ve just finished drawing, the colors are super vibrant and the details are clear. But if you leave the drawing out for a long time, the colors start to fade, and it doesn’t look as lively anymore.

Fresh food is like that bright, colorful drawing you’ve just made. When fruits and veggies are picked from the farm, or when meat is freshly prepared, all the flavors are at their best – like bright colors. Everything is juicy, crunchy, and full of taste.

Now, think about what happens when you put something in the freezer. The cold slows down time for the food, like pausing a video. This helps keep the food from going bad, but it’s not perfect. Some of the juices get trapped in ice, and the food can lose a bit of its crunchiness and flavor – kind of like the colors in the drawing fading away.

When you take the food out of the freezer and warm it up, it’s like trying to bring the faded colors back to life. It’s still good, but sometimes it’s not as juicy or flavorful as when it was fresh.

So, fresh food usually tastes better because it’s like a bright, colorful drawing with all the yummy flavors at their best. Frozen food is still good, but it’s like a drawing that has lost some of its brightness and details.

The structure of the food can become broken when freezing, due to ice crystals forming and shredding the cells. The flavour is contained in these cells, so it too can be affected. However, the texture of the food can play a part in why we think something tastes better. Food that was frozen and came out mushy feels worse to us, and that can play a part in how we perceive the flavour.

From a nutrition point of view, there’s evidence that food frozen close to the source is more nutrient rich than fresh food, because generally fresh food has sat in a warehouse for months, and depreciated a bit.

But in my experience, depending on how you use the food, there is no taste difference. I’ve made soup with frozen brocolli and fresh brocolli, and they taste the same, because by the time im eating it its been cooked and texture no longer plays a part. Ymmv

Freezing is not simply “make the stuff cold”. There is an entire science around how this has to be done to best preserve outcomes after defrosting.

The major culprit are ice crystals. If something is brought to frozen slowly, large ice crystals tend to form. These crystals break through cell walls (all living things are made of cells). When defrosted, this releases a lot of liquid (and flavor) that was encapsulated within those cells.

So this is why large scale frozen food processing uses techniques like flash freezing to minimize this outcome. Recipes also have to be adjusted if things are to be frozen. These techniques are seldom used at home.

Then our enjoyment of food is, in large part, olfactory. And this typically means volatile compounds – things that evaporate and dissipate fairly quickly. Cooking and heat releases these compounds and is likely one factor why freshly cooked food tastes better. Frozen foods will likely have lost a fraction of these volatiles.