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The Comparative Merits of White Fish

OK sounds pretentious methinks. But so it should. Who are we to pretend we are chefs or gourmet specialists? So that is the disclaimer. But we can cook and have a few tricks to share and so we will.

I personally prefer Ling Cod over Halibut any day of the week and Rockfish even more than Ling. Folks seem to seek out halibut more readily and I think it may be a marketing response. Halibut has been heavily marketed over the past 5 years and has become more desirable through this process. And don’t be mistaken; it tastes great, it is just harder to cook. Is it more delicate? Doubtful, but possibly if you can manage to not miss the 30 second window between perfection and overdone. It is such a delicate flesh in fact that it doesn’t hold together well if the cooking time goes over even a moment. Not a good choice for fish and chips unless you are a master… Ling Cod on the other hand seems to take abuse or distraction, and if you are feeding more than 2 people distraction will ensue. Plus it tastes amazing.

Once, many years ago, we gathered a group of victims (I mean volunteers) to take a taste test between these three different types whitefish. While not blindfolded, tasters were presented with a platter of 3 types of fish, all cooked in the same method but unlabeled and made to look similar (no big slabs of Ling, no long pointy Halibut tails and no curly Rockfish sides), in other words no distinguishing features. Interestingly, by a ratio of 3+:1 tasters chose the rockfish. Second choice was Ling Cod and the Halibut was a sorry third place. Not that there was anything wrong with the Halibut I stress, it is just hard to keep it at its peak when anything else gets in the way. By the time the tasting was presented the Halibut had lost some of its …. panache.

In my opinion this issue is because of the purported delicacy. Ling Cod and Rockfish are denser and densest. They have more oomph to them and a bit more resiliency. In other words, you can make a timing error with them and still pull the meal off.

I realize that everyone out there has a recipe for Halibut that works and is a family legend. This wee blogpost is based on simplicity and years of cooking all three types fish many ways with mixed results. I need consistency, not variation when serving meals. Much like cooking chocolate chip cookies, once you find a recipe that really works, if you are only going to do it occasionally why change it? No insult to all the other zillions of outstanding recipes, just a need to know how it will look on the plate and taste in the mouth every time.

Before I go, a word about freezing. Fish processing as we preform it at the lodge is the very best way to keep fish fresh for a very long time. Having said that, I personally want to use my Halibut and Ling Cod up within 12 months. Something changes in the flesh, they often experience a colour change, and when the packages are opened they have a little more aroma. Rockfish I haven’t noticed this with but we get so little of it that it is used up before a year in anywise.

So folks, get into those freezers and start using up that amazing product. ​



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