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What does halibut taste like?

I am quite the fish fanatic but have never had halibut. I eat fish so frequently that my interest in my old favorites is nearly saturated. I eat quite a variety including tuna, salmon, cod, and swordfish so I have been eye-ing the supply at my local fishmonger to branch out and try some new species. Halibut caught my eye today, but I've never had it. What does it taste like? Is it similar to other whitefish like cod?

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  1. The flavor is closer to cod than to the others, certainly. It has a more interesting texture, IMO, being quite a bit firmer. A very versatile fish, one of my favorites.

    1. It is a nice meaty whitefish, mild flavour and texture

      I don;t like cod, so to me it does not taste like cod :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: CocoaChanel

        Is there something in particular that you don't like about cod? Just out of curiosity.

      2. Cod is probably the nearest comparision.

        1. I don't want to freak you out, but you want to try to limit your swordfish and fresh tuna consumption because they are high in mercury. I love swordfish, but I only eat it a few times a year.

          Check this out...

          http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/oee/me...

          6 Replies
          1. re: Philly Ray

            Thanks, I am a physician and it's actually a running joke at work on when I'll get tingling fingers and toes from mercury. For some reason, I accept the risk although I might not feel the same about early-onset dementia. However, I do try to space it out which is why I'm asking about other types of fish because I tell myself to fight the swordfish craving for risk of too many walloping doses of heavy metals.

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              No joke. I have a friend whose father is a physician, and he ate a tuna salad sandwich every day from the cafeteria at his hospital. In his late 60s, his hands started shaking, and he determined that it was mercury poisoning. I eat tuna rarely, and swordfish never (anymore), but I think halibut is more like sword. At its best, it will melt in your mouth.

              1. re: sciencediet

                Wow, I'm in trouble!

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  In a way, yes you are.

                  I know you're starting to branch out to other fish, but please do KEEP AT IT. To the point where you're NOT eating Tuna &/or Swordfish every single week. There are dozens & dozens of other seafood choices to choose from.

                2. re: sciencediet

                  Halibut isn't even remotely close to Swordfish in any way, shape, form, or taste.

                  1. re: sciencediet

                    Halibut is a bottom feeder and is on the "moderate" mercury list, which is 6 or less servings per month.

              2. Why not buy some and try it?

                4 Replies
                1. re: linguafood

                  And here's a good recipe assuming you liked asian spiced food.
                  http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/qui...

                  1. re: linguafood

                    Of course that's always a solution, but rather not spend good money on something I know nothing about. It seems since I like cod that it'd fit right in so I guess I feel more comfortable buying it. Also, I have an annoying habit of being really angry if I cook something that just doesn't taste good which as a creature of habit doesn't happen much :)

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      It is pretty expensive to just experiment with it as an unfamiliar ingredient, I'll admit.

                      But ya know.... YOLO, man. Carpe diem and all that jazz.

                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                        I think you'll like it if you like cod. Try it in a simple preparation first, and next time try it in a curry sauce.

                    2. It tastes like halibut.

                      It's sort of like asking what does beef taste like, or what does salmon taste like.

                      A good piece of beef or fish will just taste like itself. The taste is part and parcel the quiddity of what makes a particular food item unique -- esp. with things like fish and meats.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        And fruits and vegetables.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          A lot of times when I'm out eating crawfish people ask what it tastes like. I politely tell them it tastes like crawfish.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            This is true to some extent, but the flavors and aromas of many things we eat can sometimes be described with adjectives.

                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              Yes, I find adjectives quite useful for describing things. ;)

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              Yes, but don't you agree that frogs' legs taste like chicken?

                            3. It is sweet and mild. Because the fillets tend to be thicker than cod, it tends to be moister but probably is closer to cod than the other fishes that you've mentioned

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: masha

                                I feel like it is sweeter than cod. We had sea bass and mahi mahi this weekend and I think of halibut being closer to those than cod.

                              2. I love halibut! My favorite fish. It has a firm, very meaty texture, but a mild flavor. It is quite difficultbto find in fish stores, in my area anyway, and expensive when I do find it. But, on an old thread of mine, someone mentioned that Trader Joe's has it frozen.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Kat

                                  I was the TJ mentioner. Last week I noticed that mine had no fresh frozen halibut but still had the house-branded battered halibut fillets. I look for halibut only sporadically (my favorite fish but spendy) so don't know if they were just temporarily out of stock or have stopped carrying it.

                                  I suggest the OP try the battered halibut. It's quite good. Or order it in a restaurant. It's a good idea to try a new food in prepared version first, rather than cooking something when you have no idea what the desired finished texture is. I agree that it is firm. There is a bit of a directional grain to it, though not the long strands of, say, chicken breast. The mouth feel is closer to chicken breast than cod.

                                2. It's a flatfish. If you've had sole or flounder, halibut shares some of the same flavor characteristics but with denser, meatier flesh and not quite as sweet. It has less gelatin than cod, so not as smooth and soft-ish.

                                  1. It is firmer and sweeter than cod. A good fishmonger can cut you a small 4 ounce piece so that you can try it. It is one of my favorite fish.

                                    1. Isn't it a BIG flat fish? Seem to remember Sarah Palin and daugher CLUBBING tem as they were hauled into a fishing boat on some program?? It's very mild... I'd say in similar taste as cod. Not something you'd be very successful grilling... like salmon, tuna or swordfish.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: kseiverd

                                        Yes, halibut is huge (100 to 500 lbs apiece), especially the ones from Alaska. The ones off the California coast tend to be smaller. Halibut steaks are quite delicious grilled, but bear in mind that it is leaner than cod, salmon or swordfish. But the best part is the cheek.

                                        1. re: kseiverd

                                          >>>Seem to remember Sarah Palin and daugher CLUBBING tem as they were hauled into a fishing boat on some program<<<

                                          What does Sarah Palin have to do with the question regarding what "tem" (sic) halibut tastes like, kseiverd?

                                          >>>Not something you'd be very successful grilling<<<

                                          And why would you conclude the OP would not be very successful grilling halibut? I know many people that grill it with excellent results and I suspect the OP can as well.

                                        2. Halibut is sweet, mild, and firm. It is so delicious that I think it's best very simply prepared, just pan fried and perhaps with a squeeze of lemon.
                                          My whole foods has already advertised that it will have fresh, wild Alaskan Halibut from Good Friday thru Easter weekend-- it's on my calendar. Might be a good time to give it a try if you have a whole foods near you offering that same deal!

                                          PS how do you pronounce your name?

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: ohmyyum

                                            Indeed, that's where I saw it. There is no real pronunciation - it is a combinaiton of the words field hockey in Virginia which was an ancient AOL screenname I created when I was literally 10 years old and have just stuck with it.

                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                              I was wondering the same thing!

                                              1. re: melpy

                                                I get asked that question a lot which if I didn't create the name, I would probably wonder about too. I've though about changing it to something more obvious, but then I'd have to remember :)

                                          2. I'm not wild about the flavor at all. It's just too mild for my taste. I prefer something with a more fish taste, like speckled trout or wild redfish, caught by me.

                                            1. It's a mild white fish, and I agree with others that it's closer to cod than much anything else in most respects. If you could imagine a cross between cod and monkfish (thoroughly de-membraned), you'd be even closer to the mark.

                                              Halibut can justly be accused of being too mild, if you're one who favors fish like swordfish, shark or tuna, to say nothing of the even stronger oilier types like salmon and mackerel. But I find halibut to be an ideal canvas for all kinds of flavors, and were it not invariably at least three times the price of cod, I'd always prefer it to cod for any application.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                                Yea, I worried that I wouldn't like cod given that I like the more flavorful varieties, but the subtlety is quite nice.

                                              2. Oh, and before I forget, the tastiest part of the halibut are the worms!

                                                11 Replies
                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Wait what?! Please elaborate. I think.

                                                  1. re: ohmyyum

                                                    I thought this was common knowledge, no?

                                                    See here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2874... and http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/563738 amongst many many others.

                                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Yup! I love swordfish and cod and they are also known for worms. I just don't look as I prep and pray that it won't ruin my appetite.

                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                      Thank the Gods that you're a sensible gal!! Parasites prevail in ALL seafood (& in other proteins as well). Don't let the fearmongers scare you away from seafood!!!! Growing up on the Long Island, NY, waterfront, we caught our own seafood all the time, & purchased it from the local boats. Did we find worms while fileting/cleaning? Of course!! Did it keep us from eating our catch/purchases? NEVER!

                                                      It's common knowledge (well - amongst those who take the time to reseach from reputable sources) that any parasites common in seafood (which are normally present & aren't a sign of poor seafood) are killed at normal cooking temps. As for sushi/sashimi - fish sold for that purpose are required by law to be frozen at sub-zero temps for a minimum of 48 hours in order to kill any parasites.

                                                      Keep up trying different types of fish outside of your favorite Tuna & Swordfish (which aren't parasite-free either - lol!).

                                                      1. re: Bacardi1

                                                        I accept the parasites as I am aware that they are not pathogenic if the food is cooked properly, just don't want to see them really.

                                                        1. re: Bacardi1

                                                          I know of a guy who thought walleye sushi was a good idea.

                                                          It wasn't. I'll skip most of the story, but some weeks later he discovered he had a rather large tapeworm. He got some medicine and later discovered that dead tapeworm flatulence is not pleasant.

                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                            Yes - solely freshwater fish (outside of some "sweet" shrimp) are rarely if ever used as sushi ingredients unless cooked first (like eel).

                                                            Freshwater fish not only have a higher incidence of parasites, but have a higher incidence of parasites that are very compatible with the human body as a host.

                                                        2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                          Bonus protein! No need to look, of course.

                                                        3. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Ugh, seriously? I started buying more halibut after encountering some wormy cod that skeeved me out. I have been trying to convince myself that halibut is immune. Guess I'll have to pair it with some waspy figs in the future. Sometimes I really hate this site!

                                                          1. re: Isolda

                                                            Please see my reply to the OP above. DON'T be skeeved out by worms in fish. They're there even if you don't see them. And harmless when prepared the way humans have been preparing fish for thousands of years.

                                                            1. re: Bacardi1

                                                              Couldn't agree more. Certain types of fish require more scrutiny when prepared raw but over all most common cooking methods more than take care of any parasitic problems.

                                                        4. Much will depend on the prep, but have you ever had flounder? If so, then you have eaten a "second cousin." Now, sole (most types), have more differences, IMHO, than do flounders.

                                                          I find the meat to be slightly sweet, not at all "fishy," but not so "fish-heavy," as many other species. When prepared well (most often in my experiences), it is a lovely fish.

                                                          Good luck,

                                                          Hunt

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                            I have had sole but not flounder. Thanks, hopefully I'll give it a try soon.

                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                              Flounder is mild an was staple in our household growing up. Breaded in cracker meal an fried with a side of tartar sauce and homemade macaroni and cheese was a Lenten favorite of my father.

                                                              Flounder is similar to catfish if you haven't tried it.

                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                While I enjoy both flounder and catfish, other than a sweet white fish, I do not see the similarity.

                                                                I grew up with both, and even sold saltwater catfish to local restaurants, when we caught them.

                                                                With flounder (I am talking about Gulf here), there is a sweetness, like with much of the Halibut, where with catfish (saltwater, or freshwater), there is an "earthiness," that is not bad, but is present.

                                                                For most Halibut, I go with a Chardonnay, or a lighter Pinot Noir. Same for Flounder. For catfish, I would not choose a Chard, and would first head to an "earthy" PN.

                                                                Both are white, both have a certain "sweetness," but then catfish (both salt and freshwater), have a unique "earthiness."

                                                                Hunt

                                                            2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                              2nd the flounder comparison. Eaten quite a bit of both and they are very similar. To me the key is fresh / fresh / fresh. For this reason, I prefer the Flounder because most of the time I am eating it the same day I caught it.

                                                              1. re: Tom34

                                                                Tom,

                                                                I would think that it would depend on where you live, or where you are dining. Fresh Flounder, done well, is a great delight. Same for fresh Halibut. When any fish is frozen, even for short transit, things can go a bit off. Still, with Fed-X, and really good practices, it can be hard to tell, especially if the fish is flash-frozen upon being caught, and then transported. Lot of variables involved.

                                                                Over much of my young life, I had some of the most wonderful Gulf Coast Flounder. Then, when I moved away, it was sort of close, but not that much.

                                                                Hunt

                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                  I agree with the freezing Bill. I think most fish is flash frozen now days but I have found that it does not hold well in the freezer. After a relatively short time, the corners & edges become a little off color indicating the onset of freezer burn and the taste becomes very strong / off. I often wonder how long the cases sit in the warehouses. I have had many bad experiences with portion controlled vacuum sealed Tuna, Sword & Mahi Mahi.

                                                                  I have only had Mid Atlantic Flounder and I think its really good. Eating fresh same day as caught just can't be beat for both texture and flavor.

                                                            3. It's one of my fave and the Alaskan Halibut is thick, firm, sweet and super white in color.
                                                              Not as much a fan of the local halibut...spoiled knowing the AK is sublime.
                                                              I love to prepare it with lemon caper beurre blanc.
                                                              Can be pricey but well worth it.
                                                              I've had good luck same day at Costco.
                                                              I asked last week and said it should be in season in a month or so.
                                                              I cook it medium and have never seen worms.
                                                              I no longer eat sword from all the tumors when we used to fly and sword spot in the islands.

                                                              1. I don't want to put damper on things 'halibut-wise' but a couple of things you should be aware of. Pretty much all the halibut you get in your average grocery store has been frozen. Halibut is a VERY delicate fish and IMO freezing it ruins the sweet light taste you get from really fresh. If you live anywhere away from where halibut is caught even 'fresh' unfrozen' halibut has basically begun rotting the minute the fish is dead. A piece of 'fresh' halibut may be a week old and no amount of icing will help. Truly fresh halibut has almost a 'pearlescent'' sheen appearance. The older the fish gets the more 'milky'white the surface.
                                                                Also you can be pretty much guaranteed that any fish department bringing in fish from a distance dips all the fish in a 'special' albite supposedly 'food safe' chemical to remove the 'fishy smell before it goes into the display case.
                                                                So..... IMO if you can't get truly fresh halibut you'll never get to actually taste the fish. Fresh halibut is a delicious fish when it's fresh.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Puffin3

                                                                  Great, thanks for the additional information, much appreciated.

                                                                2. It seems that many quite enjoy halibut and prefer a simple prep, any quick suggestions for cooking? I usually do cod with some combination of fresh herbs, garlic and lemon and bake which would probably work with halibut as it does with many fish, but any favorite recipes?

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                    That will work just fine, & will be a perfect introduction for you.

                                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                      I have had excellent luck with just using a white wine, fish (or even vegetable) stock, garlic, onion, fennel, butter and caper sauce. Fennel really seams to pair well with Halibut.

                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                        It's one of my favorite fish, too. Here's a preparation that enhances but doesn't conquer the flavor - grate a clove of fresh garlic, 1/2 t cumin, splash of green tabasco, T white worchestershire, 1/2 t dried thyme, juice of half a lemon, and slurry it up with olive oil. Marinade in the fridge for a couple hours. Grill or broil.

                                                                        1. re: rcallner

                                                                          Does it need to be white worcestershire? (just in case the halibut here becomes affordable any time soon... maybe in time for grilling weather :-))

                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                            Yes, black worchestershire is completely different. You'll find the white is a lovely enhancer for fish, poultry and pork sauces. It also lasts forever, so it's a decent investment. Hm. I'm wanting to eat some of this soon, now I'm focused on it....

                                                                            1. re: rcallner

                                                                              Cool. I'll have a look-see next time at the store!

                                                                      2. I think it depends on what part of the halibut you're talking about.

                                                                        1. FYI, Pacific halibut season does not open until March 23 of this year.

                                                                          1. I am responding to posts here talking about worms in fish. Please tell me you are joking. In case you're not, is this a thing about wild fish, not farmed fish? Elaborate. Please. Oh God. How disgusting.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Querencia

                                                                              No joke, fish have worms. I'm not sure if it applies to farmed as well, but wild fish have worms. They live in the environment and are susceptible to parasites as many species are-symbiosis if you will :)

                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                You know what the wasabi with sushi is for? Antibacterial.

                                                                              2. A wonderful fish--my favorite whitefish. Meaty like salmon and swordfish yet mild. Not very oily. You should definitely try it.

                                                                                1. Thanks for all of the information, advice and suggestions. I finally tried halibut tonight. While it was quite refreshing and had a lovely texture, I think it's a bit too mild for my tastes to be included as a regular go-to fish choice but it was still light and delicious.

                                                                                  1. A lot of 'fresh halibut' sold in stores does come from large halibut. 'Chicken halibut' is small halibut and has a sweeter more flavorful taste.
                                                                                    You'll hate me for this but any fish when it's grown about as large as they can will be riddled with worms/parasites halibut included. You won't find anyone (generalizing here) who lives where they can buy fresh caught halibut right off the boat who wouldn't rather buy a 10 pound whole 'chicken halibut' instead of a ten pound piece of halibut from a 200 pound fish.
                                                                                    When I fished commercially for salmon/rock cod/ling cod/halibut if we ever wanted to eat any fish we just caught it would always be small ones. Less worms/paristisitiac cysts etc.

                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                      I see, thanks although aren't the parasites killed at cooking temperatures?

                                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                        That's open to debate. Some suggest that in order to kill off all parasites you must heat the fish to the point where it's not worth eating. The younger the fish the smaller the parasites/worms.

                                                                                      2. re: Puffin3

                                                                                        I hate it when I come across a parisitic cyst when eating halibut. It's reminiscent of Richard Blaise using molecular gastronomy to make a puss filled sphere that bursts in your mouth when you bite down. 

                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                          Omg that is so gross. Despite my concerns about the possibility of eating parasitic worms, I had some halibut a couple weeks ago and didn't notice anything like what you vividly describe! Just mild buttery sweet flakes.

                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                            Wow, never heard it put quite like that.

                                                                                          2. re: Puffin3

                                                                                            Chicken halibut? Is it the same species as the regular big filets of halibut? Is it a baby? I have never seen this at my fish counter. Granted, the only good fish I have access to is at Whole Foods-- I'm a good 3hrs from the NC Atlantic coast.

                                                                                            1. re: ohmyyum

                                                                                              On the West Coast young halibut around the 10 pound range are prized by the locals who catch them and they are called 'chicks'/'chickens'. I'm not sure why.
                                                                                              The 'tourists' seem to be wanting 'trophy' halibut over two hundred pounds. When I was a fishing guide we'd cut the two hundred pounders into pieces to fit the iced down containers the tourists had flown home. Tourist to guide/s: "Would you like a piece of this huge trophy to take home?" Guide/s: "I'm fine thanks. I have some at ". LOL

                                                                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                Ah so it is the same fish! But it seems I will have to visit the west coast to try it, and have a fisherman friend at that!

                                                                                            2. re: Puffin3

                                                                                              IMHO, small / younger is better with most animals or seafood for the reasons you mentioned and also for favor & tenderness. For eating purposes, I would take a 10 lb stripped bass over a 30 lb one any day of the week. I would also rather have (2) 6 oz lobster tails than (1) 12 oz tail.