5 Items Chefs Always Buy Frozen

Everything from peas to chicken nuggets

No one is above the freezer aisle. Not even chefs. They might not be reaching for TV dinners, but they browse the freezer section for staples (and ice cream) just like the rest of us. At Southern Living we’ll often suggest using frozen items, from puff pastry (nobody has the time to make their own from scratch), to frozen spinach (which is an economical choice since fresh cooks down to nearly nothing). We asked a few Southern chefs to let us know what they pick up frozen at the grocery store, and how they use those items in their cooking.

Freezer Aisle

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What Chefs Buy Frozen

Some chef favorites might not surprise you, like frozen fruit, but other picks, including dino nuggets, goes to show that even chefs give in to store-bought convenience sometimes. 


Frozen Vegetables

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Multiple chefs we spoke to praised frozen vegetables. You might think "fresh is always best," but frozen vegetables, which are harvested and processed when the vegetable is in season, are a reliable way to have great product year-round.

“It’s always great to have backup ingredients in the freezer or items that are time-saving hacks and won’t compromise the quality of a dish. I always keep a bag of frozen corn handy but am mindful about how I use it. For example, while it’s great in creamed corn where it slow cooks and breaks down. I wouldn’t use it in a salad or something fresh," says Patrick Hart, sous chef at The Jones Assembly in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, executive chef Lawrence Weeks of North of Bourbon in Louisville, Kentucky, swears by frozen peas.

“Many people know how amazing frozen peas are, but I use them religiously for one of our dishes that usually appears on our menu in the colder months – our Rouxed Peas, which is an old Cajun dish prepared in Louisiana that you won’t normally find on restaurant menus. Frozen peas are best because they are picked at the peak of sweetness and freshness, and frozen when the quality is the highest. Frozen items get a bad rap because there are many low quality products out there, but as far as frozen peas go, you’re hard pressed to find a bad one," he says.


Frozen Berries in Block

Sarah Hall, president of Joel Catering and Il Mercato, in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District, similarly reaches for frozen produce, including a variety of fruit. "Anything with a short shelf life that freezes and thaws well is the goal. Top of my list is berries, perfect for smoothies or even compotes that I add to breakfast muffins, pancakes, or waffles," she says.

Hart also purchases frozen fruit, and prefers it over canned. “A nice hack for any recipe that calls for canned fruit is to sub with frozen. Most canned fruits use a syrup that require a quick rinse and by using plain, frozen fruit you can infuse your own flavors without adding extra sugar," he says.

RELATED: These Are The Best Frozen Fruits To Buy Now

Dinner Rolls

yeast rolls

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Who wants to mess with yeast when the freezer section has such good dinner roll options. Plus, if serving a big meal for crowd, it's one item you don't have to stress about not turning out right.

“Frozen rolls that require the thaw and proof method are a go-to when in a pinch and you forgot everyone wants bread with their meal," says Hart.

RELATED: This Is The Only Holiday Dish Southerners Don’t Make From Scratch


frozen shrimp

Emily Laurae / Southern Living

Adam Grusin, chef and culinary director for the Stitt Restaurant Group in Birmingham, Alabama, says he picks up frozen shrimp on his trips to the grocery store.

"High quality frozen shrimp, thawed properly, and given the care and attention that you would fresh shrimp, will taste just as great," he says.

Frozen shrimp also defrosts quickly, making it the perfect protein to have on hand for quick, last minute meals.

Chicken Nuggets

Dino Nuggets

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There's nothing wrong with always having a trusty bag of frozen nuggets on hand. The kids (and let's be honest, the adults too) will love them.

“As a soon-to-be dad, I plan to always have dinosaur nuggets in the freezer. I might even share with my daughter… when she is old enough," says Hart.

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