10 Things Professional Chefs Always Buy from the Freezer Section

updated Aug 10, 2020
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Frozen food aisle of grocery store
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For the average grocery shopper, a trip to the freezer section is pretty much mandatory. Most think of it as an EZ-Pass to quick and easy meals, not to mention the magical home of ice cream and pizza rolls. But if you thought that the freezer aisle was reserved for regular home cooks looking for shortcuts and sweets, you’d be mistaken.

We asked professional chefs to share their favorite freezer picks and were shocked to find out that they rely on it just as much as we do. Turns out, the freezer aisle is full of chef-approved picks. Here are some of our favorite chefs and their must-have frozen finds.

Credit: Target

1. Frozen Peas

“Frozen peas are extremely versatile, packed with nutrition, and are usually sweeter than their fresh counterparts. I like to have a few bags on hand most of the time. I use them in warm vegetable salads with potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, herbs, and lemon juice; in a chilled summer soup with mint; or crushed on toast with goat cheese and lemon.” — Vitaly Paley, chef/owner of Paley’s Place, Imperial, Headwaters, and The Crown in Portland, Oregon 

Buy: Simply Balanced Organic Frozen Peas, $1.99 for 10 ounces at Target 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Frozen Meat and Seafood

“I always stock up my freezer with proteins like poultry, seafood, and assorted meats. Of course, I always check to see what’s on sale and in small packages so I can easily store them and arrange in my freezer.” — Glenn Rolnick, corporate chef of Alicart Restaurant Group (Carmine’s and Virgil’s Real BBQ) in New York City

Buy: Waterfront Bistro Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon Fillets, $5.79 for 16 ounces

Credit: Target

3. Dr. Praeger’s Spinach Littles

“Our 2.5-year-old son loves Dr. Praeger’s Spinach Littles. I love them because they are super quick to prepare and an easy way to get some veggies in him.” — Field Failing, founder and CEO of Fields Good Chicken in New York City

Buy: Dr. Praeger’s Spinach Littles, $4.99 for 10 ounces at Target

Credit: Mercato

4. Jeni’s Ice Cream

“For myself, I always buy Jeni’s Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks because it’s the best ice cream out there — hands-down, end of story.” — Failing

Buy: Jeni’s Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks, $32 for 12 3.6-ounce containers

Credit: Instacart

5. Frozen mushrooms

“Frozen shiitakes are a must, as they are loaded with vitamin D and are very nourishing. I add them to soups, stews, or sauté them with scrambled eggs.” — Mee McCormick, founder and chef of Pinewood Kitchen & Mercantile in Nunnelly, Tennessee

Buy: Woodstock Organic Shiitake Mushrooms, $2.29 for 10 ounces

Credit: Instacart

6. Frozen Broccoli Rice

“Frozen broccoli rice is [another] must-have. I use it for soups, stir-fries, or broccoli vegan cheese quesadillas.” — McCormick

Buy: Sprouts Organic Riced Broccoli, $2.49 for 12 ounces 

Credit: Instacart

7. Frozen fruit

“I buy a range of organic frozen fruits to make all our smoothies and bowls at our juice shop. [You can] do the same at home! Frozen fruits are very convenient — they also leave room for creativity, mix together well, and allow you to create your own flavors.” — Joseph Cohen, chef/owner of Village Juice Co. at Optimist Hall in Charlotte, North Carolina

Buy: Sambazon Organic Acai Berry Smoothie Packs, $6.65 for four 3.5-ounce pouches

Credit: Instacart

8. Onion Tater Tots

“I am an absolute sucker for Ore-Ida Onion Tater Tots. I drizzle them in a little oil and bake them on a sheet tray. They are like mini potato latkes that I can dip in ranch or BBQ sauce.” David Santos, chef and founder of Um Segredo Supper Club in New York City

Buy: Ore-Ida Onion Tater Tots, $2.50 for 32 ounces

Credit: Instacart

9. Gluten-Free Gnocchi

“My latest favorite is Cappello’s gluten-free gnocchi. I consider it a splurge, but worth it. A few weeks ago I made a recipe with toasted walnuts, fresh lemon zest, roasted fennel, and cauliflower, and topped it with freshly shaved Parmesan. And I’m not gonna lie, it turned out pretty well.” — Carolina Santos Neves, executive chef at American Bar in New York City

Buy: Cappello’s Grain-Free Gnocchi, $7.99 for 12 ounces

Credit: Walmart

10. Ben & Jerry’s

“I always have some ice cream in my freezer. It makes anyone happier when things are tough. Ben & Jerry’s, almost any flavor fits the bill.” — Jason Barwikowski, executive chef of Hiyu Wine Farm in Hood River, Oregon

Buy: Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream, $3.97 for 16 ounces at Walmart

Do you have any of these chef-approved items in your freezer?