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Apr 21, 2011 08:38 AM

Difference between black cod (sablefish) and regular cod?

Does anyone know the difference between black cod (aka. sablefish) and regular cod? I found a recipe for Nobu's black cod with miso but my grocery only had regular cod. I'm marinating the regular cod in the miso concoction but I wanted to know if the taste or cooking time would be different.


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  1. It's closer to halibut than cod (I don't believe it's in the cod family, they just use the name for familiarity).

    9 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      Actually, black cod is much fattier than halibut. It's much fattier than just about any fish you'll ever eat, which makes it perfect for the Nobu recipe, which I make on a regular basis. Regular cod may be OK in this recipe, but they're not even remotely similar. Black cod is so delicate and soft that it's near impossible to fry (will fall apart) or grill (will fall through). The Nobu preparation calls for cooking it, unturned, in your broiler, which it will make a mess out of. The sharpness of the miso and sweetness of the mirin work perfectly to cut the fish's fattiness.

      Although soft and fatty, the fish doesn't have the strong taste of fat fish like tuna or mackerel. It's very mellow and rich. The flesh is a pearly pure white.

      The Nobu recipe is easy to pull off even for an inexperienced home cook and the results are absolutely delicious. The only thing, when I make it I don't marinate for quite as long; I think the original recipe calls for several days and I like my fish fresher. I give it several hours.

      I hope you can experience this treat with the real deal some time as it's worth it. Not sure where you're located but black cod is caught in Pacific Northwest ocean waters; if you're purchasing any distance from there, I'd ask a lot of questions.

      1. re: BobtheBigPig

        Hey Bob, how do you end up cooking the black cod? The recipe on epicurious says to grill then bake.

        Also, when you make this recipe, does the miso look like a paste? I wasn't sure what the consistency was supposed to be considering I added the sake and mirin. It still has the same pasty texture.


        1. re: jchong8250

          Wow, I'd been using an old recipe from the Vancouver Sun which they probably stole from Food Network Canada. It looks an awful lot like this one here:

          I think your Epicurious recipe is the real original deal though. And yes, the miso sauce will look like a gloppy paste. It will caramelize nicely though. Let us know how it turns out!

        2. re: BobtheBigPig

          You should try letting it marinade longer... I thought like you that the fish would be better fresher, but I was wrong...
          I got a whole black cod a few weeks back, and it was too much to eat in one sitting for the two of us. So we did an experiment: we ate one of the filets (one half of the fish) after it marinated for 24 hours and the second after 48 hours. We both agreed that the 2 day fish was better; the texture had changed to be more unctuous. The flavor both days was similar; although maybe a little more balanced for the 2 day fish (although it was delicious both days).

          To the OP, I wouldn't have tried this recipe with regular cod (it so different; I love regular cod for things like fish and chips). But since you started already, I'd be worried that it would be too sweet, so try to get as much marinade off it as possible before you cook it. Also I wouldn't marinate it very long (because there is no fat).

          1. re: lrealml

            Ahh, well I'm a little disappointed to find out how different those fish are. They should really stick to calling it sablefish rather than black cod!

            I've been marinating it for about 24 hours now and prob wont be able to make it until tomorrow night. (EST 11:12pm). Irealml, I'll take your advice and take as much marinade as possible. Luckily, I read some reviews before hand and cut down the sugar to about half of what it called for.

            I'll update when I make the fish! Wish me luck!

            1. re: jchong8250

              FYI, black cod/sablefish is also called butterfish, or in Japanese markets, Gindara. if you can't find it in the future, salmon might actually be a better alternative - it takes well to the miso glaze and has a higher fat content than regular does yellowtail.

              but i'm sure this attempt will be delicious :)

              1. re: jchong8250

                Good Luck! Hopefully it will turn out to be tasty!

                1. re: lrealml

                  I love the term unctuous when applied to this fish-it really is ambrosial.


            2. re: BobtheBigPig

              Your (delicious) description reminds me of Chilean seabass. If a place has (faux) black cod, is there a fish that's commonly mistaken for it?

          2. Certainly finish your recipe with regular cod. Once, however, make it with sablefish and maybe instead of miso use sake kasu, the lees from sake, either way it is fabulous, perhaps my fav cooked fish dish.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              Saikyo yaki applications would involve saikyo miso, lees, mirin, sake and perhaps a little kombu. Great stuff, especially if the sablefish has 48-72 hours in miso.

              Another marinade which will require roasting (on parchment to avoid sticking) is to marinate the fish in shoyu, sake and mirin.

            2. The only time I've ever eaten sable was from a Jewish deli and it was smoked. I don't think I've ever eaten anything like it. Fantastic flavor. This is a flaky fish that is somewhat fatty so it lends itself very well to smoking. Unfortunately that was in Detroit and I can't find that fish anywhere here in Las Vegas. If you're lucky enough to find it give it a try.

              1. Yesterday I went to Matsuri, a Japanese restaurant in NYC, and our group ordered the Sake Black Cod. I wasn't sure what to expect so when the fish came out, I was pleasantly surprised. The fish was delicious! Very flaky and the pieces came off easily. I thought the texture of the fish was a teeny tiny bit tough, is that what it should taste like?

                So today I cooked the regular cod that I have in the fridge. The flavor is actually quite the same as yesterday's fish! I would say the only big difference is the texture. While the Black Cod is a fish with bigger chunks and a bit tougher taste, the cod is more crumbly and softer.

                Oh! And I found black cod yesterday! Matsuri is located right near Chelsea market and I went there for the first time yesterday! The fish market there is heavenly! IF only they had something like that in Queens...

                1. I like that Nobu recipe with hake or bluefish and plan to try it with monkfish.