Suitable for broiling, baking, or pan-frying, it has a delicate flavor and soft, rather dark flesh that firms and lightens when cooked. Carp: This freshwater fish is a favorite with two diverse ethnic groups: Chinese cooks like to poach or steam it whole, while Eastern European Jews use it for making defile fish and also serve it poached, with a sweet-and-sour sauce.
The flesh of carp is somewhat coarse, and parts of the fish can be tough. It is also a difficult fish to skin and bone, so you may prefer to buy fillets.
With its snow-white flesh, firm, rich texture, and melt-in-your-mouth flavor, Chilean sea bass has become extremely popular. Mackerel is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids; some varieties have a stronger, oilier flavor than other fish.
Its rather oily, firm, white meat has a delicate flavor and is best cooked by broiling, grilling, or baking in parchment. A high fat content gives it a soft texture and a rich taste that is surprisingly mild.
Salmon is usually sold in files or cut into steaks, depending on the size and variety. Shad : This member of the herring family is famous for its tasty roe as well as its rich flesh.
Shad is at its best in the spring, when it enters inland waters on both the Atlantic and Pacific Northwest coasts to spawn. Females bear large sacs of roe weighing up to 3/4 pound each, which are considered a great delicacy.
Because of its high fat content, shad remains moist and delicious when baked or broiled. Bluefish: This plentiful Atlantic fish is a great fighter, making it popular with sport fishermen.
However, it ranges over a wide area during its lifespan and may be exposed to many contaminants, including PCs and mercury. Although its exceptionally rich flavor has given bluefish a “high-fat” reputation, it actually has only 4.6 grams of fat per 3-ounce cooked serving.
Though once caught in rivers and streams, it is now farmed in ponds and sold fresh and frozen all over the country. The fish has a smooth but tough skin that can be difficult to remove, so it’s preferable to buy fillets or nuggets.
Although traditionally fried, catfish are also delicious baked, grilled, poached, sautéed, or in stews. A similar fish, called Pacific cod, is caught on the West Coast.
The flesh is firm, white, and mild in flavor, and this very lean fish can be cooked by almost any method. Flounder: This widely available flatfish, which can be found on nearly every American coastline, has a mild flavor and light texture that have made it a longstanding favorite.
If you see Dover sole on a restaurant menu, it may be imported from England (and will be priced accordingly) or it may be a type of Pacific flounder that is sometimes called by this name in the United States. This very large fish is usually marketed in fillets or steaks, more commonly frozen (or thawed) than fresh.
You can also substitute firm, white-fleshed halibut fillets in flounder or sole recipes. Whole ling cod, which weigh 3 to 10 pounds and up, are usually sold dressed, and markets also carry fillets and steaks.
Caught primarily in Pacific waters, it is most often sold in fillets or steaks, fresh or frozen, with the skin attached to hold the fish together during cooking. Mahi-mahi has dense, sweet, moist flesh something like swordfish, and it can be cooked in the same ways: baked, broiled, and poached.
This saltwater fish is so ugly that the head is cut off, and its thick, tapering tail section is sold whole or in fillets. Also called goose fish or angler fish, monkish has appeared on many American restaurant menus in recent years.
(Monkish is sometimes referred to as “poor man’s lobster.”) It can be poached, sautéed, stir-fried, cut into medallions, or used in chowders and soups. Orange roughly: This small saltwater fish is mostly imported from New Zealand and sold in the form of frozen fillets.
It has become quite popular, probably because its firm, slightly sweet white flesh possesses an adaptable “neutral” flavor like that of flounder. Orange roughly can be cooked by almost any method and substituted for other mild-flavored, white-fleshed fish such as cod, haddock, and halibut.
Yellow perch and walleye from the Great Lakes are the most familiar American types. Weighing 3 pounds or fewer, this fish has firm, flaky white flesh and is sold whole, dressed, and as fillets.
Small perch is most commonly sautéed, but can also be baked, broiled, or poached. Its intricate bone structure can make filleting this fish difficult.
The flesh is flaky and somewhat dry, so it’s best to bake pike with a moist stuffing or a sauce, or poach it. It has a dark layer of flesh just under the skin on one side, which can be removed for a milder flavor.
It can be found dressed, whole, and occasionally filleted, and is often served pan fried. Rock fish (ocean perch): Fish of this large family go by many names.
All types of rock fish/ocean perch have mild, firm, white flesh and have become very popular throughout the United States. Market size is 2 to 5 pounds and the fish are sold mostly in the form of thick fillets, which can be cooked by just about any method.
It is marketed mostly in the Northeast and is popular as a steamed or fried dish in Chinese restaurants. Red and black groupers are taken from southern Atlantic waters and the Gulf of Mexico.
Weighing from 3 to 20 pounds, they are sold fresh as steaks or fillets, which are best broiled, poached, sautéed, or stuffed and baked. The same cooking methods are also suitable for white sea bass, a West Coast fish from a different family that typically weighs 10 to 15 pounds and is sold whole, pan-dressed, or in thick fillets or steaks.
Shark (make, dogfish): If you aren’t a fish lover, you may nevertheless find this notorious predator appealing as food. Shark has a lean, meaty, “sunfish” texture, a mild flavor, and is free of bones, due to its cartilaginous skeleton.
Make shark, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, are similar to swordfish in texture and flavor. Dogfish is a small shark averaging about 2 feet long with firm, rich flesh.
Fresh shark may have a slight odor of ammonia, which can be lessened by soaking the fish in salted water, milk, or water and lemon juice for a few hours, then rinsing it before cooking. If shark has a strong ammonia odor, it has not been properly treated after it was caught; pass it up.
Skate flesh has striations of muscle that make it resemble crab meat in texture, and its flavor is similar to that of scallops or other shellfish. Smelt: This small, delicately flavored fish is related to salmon.
You can recognize the real thing by its bright red skin, usually left on the fillets to identify it, and its light-colored flesh. Because red snapper tends to be expensive, you’re more likely to find it in a restaurant than in your fish market.
Once abundant on both coasts, striped bass has become much rarer because of overfishing and contamination with PCs, and commercial fishing is now banned in most Eastern states and in California. Other big fish, such as shark, are also susceptible to mercury contamination, but swordfish have been found to contain the highest levels.
Since this problem was discovered, the FDA has monitored both domestic and imported swordfish very closely. This fish was not very popular until a few years ago, but now is increasingly available and worth seeking out for its firm, pinkish-white flesh that has some sweetness of lobster or scallops.
Tile fish can be substituted for other white-fleshed fish such as cod, where its sweet flavor will be a bonus. Rainbow trout, the most frequently available, is sold fresh or frozen throughout the country all year.
It is an immensely popular game fish, but only farm-raised rainbows are sold commercially. Trout generally have mild, sweet flesh, though texture, flavor, and fat content vary.
Tuna is a member of the mackerel family, and may weigh up to 1,500 pounds, depending on the species. Weakfish are sold whole, dressed, and in fillets, and can be substituted for striped bass, or for less flavorful fish such as cod and Pollock.