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Apr 14, 2003 08:47 AM

Scrod vs. Cod

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Can anyone tell me what is the difference between Scrod and Cod?? I've been told in the past that there is an actual difference.

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  1. There is no such fish as scrod (also schrod). It can be cod, haddock, or pollock.

    18 Replies
    1. re: AlanH

      al5561 is right. Scrod is a restaurateur's term for any type of firm-fleshed, cold-water, juvenile white fish. Cod, Pollock, Haddock, Hake, etc. All the "fish'n'chips' fish.

      1. re: Miko
        Dr. Warren H. Chelline

        Here is the answer to scrod vs. cod, as I heard it many years ago. The Parker House chef would go down to the fishermens' wharf early each morning, to select the very best for his kitchen. He would accept only the fish that happened to be on top of the vessels' holds---top layer only. No fish that had had any weight on it, no matter how slight, would be accepted. The code word used for the selection process was "scrod," meaning the best, from the top layer. Usually it was codfish, but the chef would also choose the creme de la creme of some other varieties such as haddock or pollock---never mackeral. Hence the term "scrod" got over onto the Parker House menu, to communicate to the clientele in the know, the cognoscienti, that the fish was fresh and top-of-the-line. Somehow, from this procedure, the term "scrod" came to mean "high-class" on most New England menus. By the way, I also learned, from my father, a Yankee of the old school, that the term "filet" (pronounced fill-ay) was only for meat, while the term "fillet" (pronounced fill-ett) was for fish. Does anyone else know about that distinction, one of the hallmarks of true yankee parlance? When I use the word fillet here in the backwaters of the Missouri River, I get some funny looks from the servers, and others within earshot. Around here, in the MiddleWest, catfish is the big thing. And "farm-raised" at that!...I don't even dignify catfish as being legitimate seafood. Enough rambling from the old professor. Wish I could have some clam stew at Tall Barney's in Jonesport. Or some of Aunt Carrie's clam cakes out at Point Judith. So long.

        1. re: Dr. Warren H. Chelline

          The difference in usage between filet and fillet is interesting. The English always say fillet of beef and sometimes use filet for fish (the opposite of Yankee usage).

          I think fillet was traditionally used in America until French food became vogue in the 20th century. Either is certainly correct (except in the case of French names like filet mignon), though some people will insist on one or the other.

          Related to scrod representing any white-fleshed fish, I once asked a friend what kind of fish she likes. With a straight face, she answered, "The fill-ay." Hmm.

          1. re: lucia

            Take it from a folklorist: that story about the Parker House is an urban legend. A story does circulate that 'scrod' stands for 'Select Catch Received' or some such...but there's no primary documentation for that.

            1. re: Miko

              Here's more (after some research): The Omni Parker House often gets pointed to as the 'inventor' of Scrod, but what they really invented was the dish called "Boston Scrod", which is young whitefish split and broiled with herbed cracker crumbs. The Parker House does nothing to clear up the misunderstanding, though; they are happy to take credit for all kinds of things as long as their name is connected with it. (You can thank them for the delicious Parker House rolls and Boston Cream Pie, though.)

              The legendary version says that SCROD stands for "Secured Catch Received on Dock".  But that's one of those stories that was concocted after the fact, sounds so believable, and gets easily passed around (like the one about a car's wheelbase being based on Roman chariots...yeesh)

              Here's one etymologist's tracing of 'Scrod'

              "Words deriving from acronyms are rare. You should always suspect such explanations as apocryphal.  (ed. note: Like that story about Unlawful Carnal Knowledge...yeesh again!) Scrod means "young cod or haddock, especially one split and boned for cooking as catch of the day".  It is the "split" part of that definition that is important, for scrod is thought to come from the obsolete Dutch word 'schrood', which derived from Middle Dutch schrode  "piece cut off" (compare the German surname Schroeder, "tailor," or "one who cuts cloth").  

              The Old English cognate is screade, the ancestor of modern shred.  A variant spelling of schrod for scrod is noted in some American dictionaries, further supporting the Dutch origin.  The OED reports a variant escrod, but we suspect that may be the influence of Portuguese fisherman in the Northeast (U.S.), where this term originated."

              A-ha. Not as exciting a story, but more accurate. I will add a classic joke that seems pertinent: So a tourist from Texas arrives in Boston and hops into a cab. Having heard about the delicacies to savor in the venerable city, he asks the cabbie, "Say, where can I get scrod?" The cabbie turns around in his seat, regards the man carefully, and replies, "Buddy, I've been asked that a million times, but never before has anyone asked it in the pluperfect subjunctive."

              1. re: Miko

                thanks for the last paragraph!!:)

                1. re: orla
                  Peter B. Wolf

                  Well, here is my version, absolutely no-one ever heard of: Northeastern Germany is located at the 'Baltic Sea' / 'Ostsee', these waters produce a fish called "Dorsch" in German, it is a type of small Cod (Gadus morhua) see:

                  German Immigrants reversed the spelling of Dorsch - Schrod !!
                  So there !!

                  1. re: Peter B. Wolf

                    Once a fisherman told me that Scrod was rotten cod. Yar!

                    1. re: wb

                      My cookbooks define scrod this way:
                      "A young cod, split down the back, and backbone removed, except a small portion near the tail..." (Fannie Farmer, 1924 ed)
                      "split a young codfish down the back and remove backbone..." (Good Maine Food, 1939)
                      "split a small codfish and remove all bones..." This is a Parker House recipe for broiled scrod as it appears in The Yankee Cookbook, 1939. However, a side bar adds "In the fish industry, scrod has come to mean haddock under 2-1/2 pounds, The correct definition of scrod is a small fish prepared for planking."

                      1. re: Ollypay
                        Professor Warren H. Chelline

                        Well, wasn't that an interesting conversation concerning "Scrod vs. Cod"! Now why don't we pursue the fine points of "farm-raised"" fish, such as salmon and even catfish (retch).

                          1. re: AlanH

                            i'm from the south
                            sounds like you need to try my momma's pan-fried catfish

                            1. re: ali b

                              Oh yes...I love Catfish! Wonderful, tender, meaty, moist, flavorful fish that forms a delicious complement to a crispy crust and a spicy sauce. Fantastic! Fish farming does have some bad environmental effects, though, I understand.

                    2. re: Peter B. Wolf

                      Wouldn't the reverse spelling of Dorsch be hcsrod, not schrod?

            2. re: Dr. Warren H. Chelline

              I am always a broken record on the topic of fresh, wild-caught fish, but...

              Farm raised catfish, I agree is just plain nasty. Tastes like the soybeans on which they are raised. I'd rather just eat tofu.

              That said, if you ever have the opportunity to taste good, wild caught catfish it can be sublime. Sweet firm flesh, that in my opinion can be as good as wild caught trout!

              Unfortunately, you usually can't just pick some up at the corner fish store.

              1. re: Dr. Warren H. Chelline

                Really like this version of the schrod/scrod debate. I was at the fish market today - and asked (different clerk) as I always do - what is schrod vs. the haddock they had. She mumbled some taste and textural differences.

                Sorry news - Tall Barney's is no more in Jonesport.

            3. re: AlanH

              I agree, 'scrod' usually means 'catch-of-the-day'. I always enjoy trying to guess what the fish actually is.

              1. re: philfromfoxboro

                Hello All --
                As someone who was a Fish Monger for many years, the story goes like this. Years ago, when boats went out to fish, often for several days, even a week or more. The fish that was in the top of the hold, was the most recently caught, and therefore the freshest. It, whether Cod or Haddock (sometimes Pollack) was generaly referred to as the Scrod (Schrod).
                In current Market terms it generally refers to the smaller fish, generally Cod. Hope this helps.

                Best regards to all.

            4. Scrod is a small Cod. Schrod is a small Haddock.

              1. I like to pretend (after reading it in Brooke Dojny's _The New England Cookbook_, 1999) that it's a contraction of 'sacred cod,' apparently the name of a wooden fish that has been hanging in the Mass Statehouse since 1748, unless Romney sold it on e-bay.