As someone who can be skeptical of grocery produce. I often assume that every vegetable should be washed myself, even if the label says pre-washed.
So I decided to look into this more and see if I should be more trusting of labels.
Most vegetables which will be sold frozen are completely washed clean of any dirt before packaging. This is to ensure no microorganisms in the dirt contaminate the food. So there is no reason to wash them again.
Frozen vegetables carry a lot of misconceptions. Particularly about the safety and overall nutrition.
As well as how frozen vegetables need to be prepared and cooked. Here is more on why frozen vegetables can be cheaper and more convenient than fresh.
Should You Wash Frozen Vegetables Before Cooking?
You really shouldn’t worry about having to clean frozen vegetables. Even for someone like myself who worries about potentially consuming pesticides and fertilizers, here is why.
One step in the manufacturing process for many vegetables includes washing any dirt or debris off.
This step is done relatively quickly after harvesting. Since time is essential before vegetables begin to break down.
A lot of vegetables actually undergo a few processes that I think actually clean them even further.
These processes are different for each vegetable but usually involve blanching and soaking in water.
So even if these other steps aren’t directly meant to clean the vegetable. There is little doubt that any dirt or debris will remain after the entire process.
The manufacturing process for frozen vegetables goes like this. First they are harvested, then sorted and graded based on quality.
Lower quality produce is removed. Next pending on the type of vegetable, they are peeled or cut.
Then the vegetables are thoroughly washed. After washing the produce is placed into boiling water for a short amount of time.
This step is called blanching and it affects the taste and slows the enzymes in the produce. Slowing the enzymes helps to preserve color, flavor and texture.
The final steps involve packaging and finally freezing the produce. Sometimes they are frozen before packing or after.
This manufacturing of frozen vegetables is done in a sterile environment. Again the blanching actually further cleans the vegetables.
Most brands want to avoid any contamination of their products. So unless you notice any dirt remaining on your frozen vegetables you bought them. I wouldn’t worry about washing them again.
Vegetables that you have boughten fresh and plan to freeze. Should be washed beforehand. Any fresh produce is recommended to be washed with water before cooking.
Washing fresh produce before freezing is also much easier than after.
You can wash vegetables by rinsing them in cold water. Harder to clean produce like lettuce or broccoli should be soaked in water for a couple minutes.
Again this is only with fresh produce and not frozen.
Are Frozen Vegetables as Healthy as Fresh Vegetables?
Typically it is believed that fresh produce is healthier than frozen. Fresh unprocessed produce must be healthier. It would seem this way but it’s not that simple.
The healthiest vegetables are the freshest ones eaten just as they become ripe. It doesn’t matter if it’s been frozen or not.
You can have frozen vegetables that are healthier than fresh. Fresh just meaning not frozen in this case.
Both frozen and fresh vegetables will lose their nutritional value over time. Freezing them does not destroy nutrients, in fact it could help to preserve them for longer.
As mentioned earlier the blanching of produce actually slows the spoiling. This would help to preserve the nutrition in the vegetable.
So frozen vegetables do have their advantages when it comes to nutrition. Just make sure that there are no preservatives or added sugars.
Should You Defrost Frozen Vegetables Before Cooking?
Frozen vegetables do not need to be thawed before cooking. In fact I wouldn’t recommend doing that.
Thawing can cause a vegetable to lose its texture, especially peas.
This is another convenient thing about frozen vegetables. If you plan to make a stir fry for example. You can place frozen vegetables directly in the stir-fry without thawing.
There will always be extra moisture which comes from frozen vegetables. Usually this isn’t a problem for most recipes.
If you want to avoid extra moisture then you might consider thawing the vegetable first. Then you can pat dry and remove any excess water.
Best way to decide this is to determine if you are going to eat the vegetable raw or cooked.
If it is raw then you might want to thaw it out first.
Also I find it is better to slice any vegetables first before you freeze them. Peppers for example are much harder to cut after they have been frozen then thawed out.
This can be a problem especially if you plan to use the peppers raw, like in a salad or guacamole.
So in-most part I wouldn’t worry about defrosting vegetables. Especially if you plan to cook them.
What Is The healthiest Way To cook Frozen Vegetables?
Overall the healthiest way to cook frozen vegetables is to steam cook them.
Steaming is better than boiling as the vegetables do not come in direct contact with hot water.
There are two main ways that vegetables lose their nutrients. This is high heat and from boiling water.
High heat for long periods of time will kill nutrients. Boiling vegetables simply causes the loss of water soluble vitamins.
Another healthy way to cook vegetables is actually in a microwave. Because a microwave cooks food very quickly it will limit the loss of nutrients.
Steaming vegetables is actually better than boiling or microwaving.
Although the cooking time for steaming isn’t very long, about 3 to 8 minutes depending on the type of vegetable.
Heating the steamer or boiling water to steam can take some time.
You can actually steam vegetables in the microwave. Simply place the vegetables in a bowl with a small amount of water. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap, leave a small vent opening.