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In April I noticed an interesting addition to the frozen fish section next to the fish counter in my local grocery store: frozen meals. Ordinarily I'd expect this section to include things like family packs of frozen fish filets, whether breaded or plain, but in the last year or so I've noted that companies like Scott & Jon's, which specializes in frozen meals that include shrimp, or Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett's line of frozen seafood meals, are placed there rather than in the frozen dinner aisles with the Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers, and other mainstream frozen dinner brands.
The good news is that there are more and more options for finding seafood in a frozen meal.
But there's bad news as well: back in April I reviewed two meals from Sea Tru, which were, in a word, vile. If the only seafood I had ever eaten was of the quality of those dishes, I wouldn't want to eat seafood either.
These meals from Aqua Star were certainly more promising: these are much more complete meals (that is, they include both a vegetable and a starch or legume), and they're labeled as single servings. The first dish we tasted was the Lemon Herb Wild Cod (12 ounces, 420 calories, 750mg sodium, 5g fiber).
On paper this could be a real boon to those who hesitate to buy and prepare fish because they don't quite know how to cook it and don't want to waste their money buying and cooking something that won't come out well.
They need not worry: these are somewhat cheaper, at $8.99 each, than buying fresh fish and other ingredients, and they will certainly cook faster at 6 minutes in the microwave.
They'll still end up with awful food.
The other variety we tasted is the Roasted Garlic Salmon (11 ounces, 470 calories, 310mg sodium, and 5g fiber).
I'm not going to bother with telling you about the texture of the green beans or the potatoes or the carrots. The important thing here is the fish.
Here's the problem. There are multiple wattages for microwaves (for example, my current unit is 1100 watts while the one I used to have was 1200 watts), and that makes a big difference in timing. The instructions on a frozen food package need to work for as many people and variations of microwaves as possible and cook the food to a safe temperature. This can work pretty well for land animal proteins, which can be cooked within a minute or two either side of perfect and still be tasty, but fish are more delicate and have a much narrower window of timing - they can go from uncooked to overcooked very quickly.
It's difficult to tell, but it appears that the green beans and the carrots weren't cooked before packaging (the potatoes were - it says so on the package). Nor was the fish. Cooking the vegetables long enough to be crisp-tender (as they were) ended up overcooking the fish. A lot.
Properly cooked, filets of fish like these should slip apart quite easily at the lines in the filet, but these fish are so overcooked that they must be cut with the side of a fork (at best) or with a knife (at worst). They're been turned into damp, fishy-tasting chunks of cardboard.
If this is all I knew of eating fish, I'd never buy or eat it either, and I sure as heck would resent spending $8.99 on something like this. Aqua Star might tout their "best aquaculture practices" on their packaging, but this is simply a crime against fish. Believe me, it's not that hard to cook fish correctly.
Posted: July 9, 2021