Halibut is a lean fish with mild, sweet tasting white flesh, large flakes and a firm but tender texture. Because of its leanness this fish becomes dried-out if overcooked. Frozen halibut is denser and less moist than fresh halibut and is easier to overcook.
Typical Cooking Methods
Except for deep frying and sushi, I usually cook pacific halibut to an internal temp of about 125° – 130° F. This leaves the fish tender and moist. Below are common methods of cooking this fabulous fish. My favorite is to grill or saute…and of course battered and fried Halibut & Chips!
Pacific Halibut, Alaska Halibut, Cow of the Sea, Hippos of the Sea, Chicken Halibut (under 20 lbs), Hirame (Sushi)
Halibut are the largest of all flounders/flatfish. They have an average commercial catch weight of 25-30 lbs but can weigh over 600 lbs and be up to 8 feet long. When butchered they yield four fillets or fletches.
Halibut are a right-eyed flounder and have two distinctly colored sides. The top side is a mottled dark brown color, and the bottom side is off white with slight tinges of pink. The females grow to the largest sizes, while males rarely reach weights over 50 pounds.
How To Fillet Whole Halibut
Here is an example of a filleted Halibut with the carcass in the back, the removed skin in the center, the skin-side up view of the fillets on the right (skin removed), and the flesh-side up view of the fillets on the lower left.
Fresh halibut availability chart: green areas show peak availability, light green show limited availability, gray indicates not available fresh. Frozen available all year long. FishChoice updates info about halibut, including commercial fishing quotas as they become available. There is also fresh farmed Atlantic Halibut available from Canada and from a UK company called Gigha Halibut http://www.gighahalibut.co.uk/
2014 Commercial Halibut Season: The commission set season dates of March 8 to Nov. 7, 2014. The International Pacific Halibut Commission approved a coast-wide catch limit of 27.5 million pounds, down 11% from 2013. It is also noteworthy that the 2013 limit was down 7 percent from 2012.
Range & Habitat
Halibut are found on the Pacific Coast from northern California to the Bering Sea and from the Sea of Japan to Russia. They spend most of their time on the ocean bottom in deep waters, but can be found in shallow water as well.
Commercially caught fish by region is as follows: about 2% is from Washington & Oregon, about 15% from British Columbia, and approximately 83% is harvested from Alaskan waters.
Typical Wholesale Products
These typical sizes refer to the original size of the fish. So, you can order fillets from a 20/40 fish which will be roughly 3 – 6 lbs per fillet (fletch).
Chalky Halibut is a fairly common condition which leaves the meat white, opaque, and a little mushy. While raw it appears as though it has been cooked. And after it is cooked the meat is soft and falls apart.
The condition tends to occur more frequently during the warmer months and is thought to occur perhaps when a fish is on the long line too long, fights too hard, and perhaps even dies during the fight. Lactic acid builds up in the flesh and does not have a chance to release before death, which leaves the flesh more acidic. It can take 3 – 7 days for chalkiness to reveal itself.