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Frozen Broccoli

Frozen Broccoli can’t compare to fresh in taste and quality, but the dirty little secret is a pound of frozen broccoli yields about 10 ounces – if you’re paying a dollar a package, (and you’re probably paying more) that’s $1.60 a pound – over 2 1/2 times the cost of fresh and some expensive water!

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For years, I’ve relied on frozen vegetables to help get us through the winter here in Minnesota, and sometimes it seemed as if I’d hardly had a minute to get dinner on the table, let alone a complete dinner. The solution: Microwave a frozen veggie. Broccoli was our number one go to vegetable. The kids ate it and I could make it in minutes.  Oh, sure, we had fresh broccoli, too, steamed, stir fried or eaten raw in salads, but frozen broccoli was just such a work horse – it was easily a side or an ingredient in casseroles, etc. I decided to put it to the test!

  • We’ve all heard that frozen is harvested at the “Peak of Freshness” and processed, and may even be better for you than fresh. Is it true?
  • The cost often seemed inexpensive, too. That seems to play out when we consider the cost of fresh. Or does it?
  • Of all the frozen vegetables, I think broccoli is one of the best tasting.  Does it compare to fresh?
  • I’ve noticed recently, too, that almost all the brands I’ve bought frozen don’t seem as nice as they used to: They’re smaller and more water-logged – how does that affect the quality?
  • What about time: How much longer does it take to get the fresh on the table?
Frozen & water left; fresh right
Frozen & water left; fresh right
The photo says it all: the one pound bag was 10 ounces of broccoli, 6 ounces of water. Directions said to cook 4 to 8 minutes in the microwave. I cooked it for four and added no water. This is way more water than leaches out when I freeze my own broccoli.

I had always assumed that the weight of the frozen broccoli was exactly one pound, and that the liquid was just extra.

A huge factor in the nutritional value is the amount of water a vegetable retains in the cooking process. You can see the water from the frozen broccoli is quite green and was still green after it was strained to I could get the total weight of the broccoli.

I used a bit less than a half cup of water steaming the fresh broccoli, and discarded it, because without it, I actually still had one pound of broccoli after it was cooked. Cooking liquid can go in your soups or green smoothies if you make them regularly.

Beautifully Steamed Broccoli - The biggest danger of frozen? People don't really like it and won't eat as much!
Beautifully Steamed Broccoli – The biggest danger of frozen? People don’t really like it and won’t eat as much!

Hmmm, a pound is a pound the world round, except when you are talking about frozen broccoli, then it’s 10 ounces.

As far as which is better, fresh or frozen, there are many arguments on both sides – a lot of which seems to stem from the idea that fresh is subjected to light during the long shipping process which destroys the nutrients and that they are sometimes picked when they are not quite ripe, giving nutrients less time to develop.

I would argue that much of this shipping process is done in boxes and crates and inside trucks and trains, and I’ve seen enough films of the processing method to know that the to be frozen vegetables are picked when not quite ripe as well. They also lay around in fields, and are trucked to the processing plants where they sit in open trucks and train cars and in giant piles outside. Then they are cooked twice, once in processing and once at home, and nutrients lost in each cooking process.

My instinct says fresh is generally better unless you live in some small, isolated town or an inner city food desert where fresh vegetables are old and scary. The argument about the “Peak of Freshness” just doesn’t ring completely true to me, although it sounds great.

The Frozen Food Industry has spent tons of money on studies and advertising to “prove” that frozen is as good as fresh – and all of a sudden a shift has taken place and many consumers now believe frozen is better than fresh, based on very limited information provided and paid for by the frozen food industry.

Frozen vegetables DO lose nutritional value over time, some begin to deteriorate in as little as four months. The testing is generally done on frozen held at 20 degrees below zero. This doesn’t account for other temperatures, especially that of home freezers, variations in temperature, freezing and refreezing, flimsy packaging and other variables.

I would also say, just as the article below does, that eating any vegetable is preferable to none. Read and decide, and weigh the options by the time of year, what’s available and the individual vegetable. Here’s a site with a little info and discussion about each side of the argument:  Eating Well, Where Good Taste meets Good Health.

At $.88 a package, this producer added water cost me 33 cents!
At $.88 a package, this producer added water cost me 33 cents!

Here is the cost comparison of the fresh vs. frozen broccoli in December of 2011:

  • Fresh:  1 pound was $.59 cents.
  • Frozen:  1 pound bag, yielded 10 ounces, bought on sale with a coupon was 88 cents.  This equaled $1.41 per pound.

That pricing difference is a HUGE revelation to me!  I had really thought the frozen broccoli was usually less than the fresh. This can vary a bit throughout the year, depending on the sales, the coupons and the produce cost.

How about taste and quality? While I am typing this right now, the broccoli is still sitting on my kitchen table.  I have nibbled multiple times on my fresh broccoli, and only tasted one piece of the frozen. Why?  I like it better.  Period.

How much time did it take, and how did I prepare the broccoli?  About three minutes to prep and the same amount of time to cook! I’ve detailed it out in Simple, Steamed Broccoli.

By the way, the frozen recommended four to eight minutes in the microwave.  I cooked the package in the photo for four.

Final Frugal Judgement: 

There’s no need to subject yourself to frozen broccoli unless you’re in a super time crunch and literally can’t take the extra 2 minutes to make fresh!  The numbers don’t support it:  Frozen costs more!

Personally, I’ll go for the fresh.

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6 thoughts on “Frozen Broccoli”

  1. I only have 3 freezer draws, so choosing what goes in there is not difficult: the most expensive things like protein on sale. I am not very fond of frozen vegetables. The only frozen vegetables I buy are peas, which I dehydrate for convenient storage. I never ever realized that there is so much water in frozen vegetables! Great post!

    1. Very interesting – you buy the frozen peas and then dehydrate! I can see it making sense from the storage point. I also like frozen spinach just because it’s nice to have it on hand. And those baby onions, coz they’re hard to peel.

      1. Yes it sounds rather silly :) but I like frozen peas more then canned peas. And it is convenient to throw in an handful of peas in rice, soups and other stews. It does save a lot of storage space and I do a couple of kilo at the same time.

  2. Never tried frozen broccoli before, but I’ll think twice about doing it now.

    The frozen veg we tend to make most use of are peas (petit pops in particular) – very easy to throw in a risotto!

    I can also heartily recommend Nigel Slater’s recipe for broccoli – fry the florets in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of oyster sauce. Absolutely delicious.

    1. Hi Paul! Thanks for stopping by and commenting and for the recommendation. I use frozen peas and don’t think I have ever seen fresh peas in the store! They’re a lifesaver.

      Nigel has only recently come on my radar. I looked at one of his recipes when I made my Chicken with wine. I am going to have to pay more attention because broccoli cooked like that sounds wonderful! I have a head in the fridge that I didn’t know what to do with!

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