Cooking Halibut: Spicing up Your Seafood

Are you a weekend top chef looking for tips for cooking halibut? You have come to the right place. Not only will you get tips on ways to cook and serve this delicious white fish, you will also learn how to make your dish a stand-out experience for your guests.

Getting to Know Your Halibut

Halibut is a truly versatile whitefish and the fact that is has a mild flavor makes it a great candidate for experimenting in different recipes. The fish is best described as white and flaky and cooks should note that the fish has little oil in it. When choosing your halibut, be aware that there is the Pacific and Atlantic halibut and each have a slightly distinctive flavor. You may want to experiment ahead of time with the two types before you decide which one to serve to company. Halibut’s relatively mild flavor makes it a great substitute for flounder or tilapia as well.

For those who do not go out and catch their own fish, it is a delight that halibut is widely available today and is sold whole, as fillets and steaks. Here are a few guidelines for how to choose your meat. The meat of the larger fish tend to be coarse and the chicken halibut, which is the smaller fish, is considered the best for cooking. Look for halibut which has glossy, white and translucent-looking flesh. It is best to avoid discolored or dull halibut. As this is a fish that has a minimal amount of smell, if you find halibut with a strong odor it is best avoided. The other thing to watch out for in the store is getting stuck with dried out fish.

You can store large halibut sections for three days in the refrigerator and keep fillets for 2 days. It is best to use the fish at the earliest possible.

Styles of Cooking Halibut

Before we talk about the different styles of cooking this fish there are a couple of general reminders:

Halibut is a relatively dry fish and so you should watch out for this, whichever style you choose, and supplement with olive oil or butter as needed.

The other critical thing is to wash and clean the fish under cold running water before you start cooking it. Make sure you pat the fish dry with a paper towel – this way you will have a clean fish and not a soggy fish.

If you choose to marinade the fish it is a good idea to use a mild marinade that will not overwhelm the flavor of the fish. Strongly acidic marinades are known to damage the meat and leave it in a mushy state.

Grilling: As halibut is a fish with little oil, grilling takes some attention. It is a good idea to clean and oil the grate before you put the steaks down. Also make sure to brush oil or butter on the fish itself or you can try using a marinade. As a rough guideline it takes about 10 minutes to grill a piece of meat that is one inch thick over a medium high heat. Adjust the time of the grilling depending on the thickness of each section. It is best to turn the meat only once to prevent it from falling apart over the grill or while serving. It is actually a good idea to use a fish basket for grilling the halibut if you are uncomfortable with using excessive oil on the grate. While you will still need to lubricate, it may take lesser amounts.

Baking: This is an easy way to cook halibut. All it takes is greasing a casserole dish and putting in your seasoned halibut. You should remember to brush oil on the fish also. It will take about 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. It is a good idea to baste the dish with oil half-way through the baking.

Broiling: This makes for an interesting texture and taste to the halibut. Preheat the broiler and prepare the broiler pan by applying oil on it. Again remember to brush the fish with oil or butter. Gourmet chefs suggest that the pan be placed about 3-4 inches from the top and that the fish be allowed to cook for 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat. It is also a good idea to turn the halibut at a mid-way point and to add a little more oil.

Deep-frying: This is a less healthy way of serving the halibut but as the fish tastes great fried. It is a good idea to dip it in a batter and then to fry it in oil at 375 degrees until the pieces are golden brown. Make sure that the halibut is cut into manageable chunks that are not too thick or thin. Beer batter is considered particularly good for deep frying halibut.

Pan searing: This is a via media way of cooking halibut in which you avoid deep frying and yet get some of the benefits of sautéing it in oil. And there is also the choice of completely pan searing it or removing it from the fire at the half way point and baking it in the oven to cook it through. This will give it an interesting texture and still keep it relative easy.

Have fun figuring out which of these methods brings out the best in the halibut!