Cod is one of the most-consumed fish in the world, but not all cod is sustainably caught, responsibly fished or farmed in an environmentally sound way. So, know this … best bet is to buy only Pacific Cod, preferably from Alaska, but steer clear of Atlantic cod UNLESS it’s MSC certified. OR … look for one of my all-time favorite species instead: lingcod (which actually isn’t a cod at all) … mild and flaky it’s a delicious fish that’s easy to grill, or try sauteing with brown-butter and sage.
Seafood School Lesson #7: Not all cod gets the nod.
When most people think of cod, they think fish and chips. Which is fine. I mean hey, fish and chips are great and if you like battered cod and it gets you eating seafood, then I’m all for it. But, as there’s more than one way to cook cod, it so happens, that there’s more than one type of cod too.
Being a West Coast girl, I ate a lot of lingcod—which isn’t actually a cod at all, but it runs abundantly throughout the Pacific Ocean. Larger than the Pacific cod (sometimes marketed as Alaskan cod) sold in supermarkets throughout the U.S., lingcod (should you ever run across it) is a delicious white fish with a mild flavor and a consistency similar to halibut. It’s a fabulous, and much more economical, option for recipes calling for halibut. So if you live on the West Coast, try substituting it for halibut and let me know what you think.
This is the variety you’re most likely to find in grocery stores and fish markets alike. And, it’s the one typically used for fish and chips. Still a mild fish by most taste bud standards, it’s a good fish to introduce into your diet if you’re not a big seafood fan (yet). Right now, it comes in around $6.99/lb making it a good, budget-friendly fish.
Look for Pacific cod caught off the West Coast, including the Bearing Sea BUT NOT from Russia or Japan
Similar to Pacific cod but from the Atlantic Ocean, it has an almost identical flavor BUT, years of overfishing and unhealthy practices have put this fish on the Seafood Watch avoid list, so steer clear under most circumstances.
Do not purchase Atlantic cod unless it’s caught in the U.S. and MSC certified
More commonly called “sablefish,” isn’t actually a member of the cod family (I know, as if it isn’t confusing enough already). I’ve never seen it for sale in the States, but I know people who say smoked black cod is excellent. SO if you ever find it, drop me a line and let me know.
How to Cook Cod
I’m a big fan of grilling seafood. Truth be known, nine times out of ten, that’s how I will always prepare it—because that’s how I like it. But every now and then I try something different because it sounds fun, and because I want to help introduce seafood to the dinner plates of more Americans … hence more choices and more ways to prepare seafood. So last week, I pan-seared it with sage and garlic and finished it in the oven. It’s super easy, and it looks pretty too. Now, I will tell you that I wasn’t happy with the way my sauce turned out. It was too watery. And I burned the garlic so it had a bitter under taste. But had I paid better attention to the pan, it would’ve been fab and yes, yes I will do it again.
Pan-seared Pacific Cod
Cod fillets—for this recipe, you need thick pieces, so I don’t recommend frozen fillets UNLESS you want to skip the searing part. Which is perfectly fine!
Olive oil, 4-5 tablespoons
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Garlic 4-5 cloves
Sage, 4-5 leaves
Lemon juice, 2-3 tablespoons)
Butter, 4 tablespoons
Salt and pepper to taste
White wine, ½ cup
Cream, 2-3 tablespoons
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat olive oil in pan. Sprinkle cod pieces with red pepper flakes (if you’re using them), drop in to oil and sear for about 2 minutes a side. Remove from pan and place in oven-safe dish. Bake for approximately 15 minutes for 1-inch fillets.
Sauté garlic, add sage, lemon and butter and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add wine and cream (or half and half) and reduce for about 10 minutes. NOTE this is where I screwed up. I was impatient and didn’t let the sauce reduce.
Remove cod from oven and plate with whatever else you’re serving. I suggest sautéed spinach or asparagus, and wild rice. Drizzle with sauce and garnish with lemon slice and extra sage if you have it. Done. Eat. Enjoy.
A note about my recipes … most of what I cook isn’t a precise science. It’s look, taste and feel. And I encourage you to cook the same way. Add a little more of this, or a little less of that … and pay attention … and before long you’ll be a wiz at cooking seafood.
Coming up next … seafood-stuffed enchilada bites (if you like cheese, you won’t want to miss this!)—stay tuned as I continue to post daily lessons over the next few weeks where you’ll learn about a variety of seafood and some great cooking methods that will turn you into a seafood wizard-chef in no time.
DISCLAIMER: I’m a writer and an editor. And I try my best to make sure every post is articulate and free from errors. However, being that I edit my own work—and it’s next to impossible to properly edit your own work—I admit, occasionally there may be an error or two I miss. But doing so doesn’t make me an idiot so don’t be mean. Just smile, pat yourself on the back for finding an error and be glad you’re not the only one who makes mistakes sometimes … yes, even mermaids slip up every now and then. xoxox