5 Kinds of White Fish You Should Pan-Roast (and 4 You Shouldn’t)

Nine varieties of white fish were put to the ultimate taste test. Here’s what we found. 

Published Apr. 18, 2023.

White fish comes in many varieties, such as cod, haddock, and halibut, just to name a few.

They look the same: smooth, milky-white, with short muscle segments.

Turns out they don’t cook the same.

In the test kitchen we cooked nine varieties of white fish using our preferred method: pan-roasting. The fillets were seared, flipped, and finished in the oven. This method provides minimal moisture loss and maximum browning.

The results from the randomized tasting were surprising. Some types came out great. Some . . . did not.

Here’s what we found.

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overhead photo of black bass, haddock, code, pollock, and hake

White Fish You Should Pan-Roast

FishTasters’ Comments

1. Black Sea Bass

Moist; cooked quickly; large flakes like cod; exuded lots of liquid while resting.

2. Haddock

Similar to cod in terms of texture/flavor; liked this method for this fish.

3. Cod

Firm, silky but “bouncy/springy” texture; has large flakes; buttery flavor; lots of color; loses liquid while resting.

4. Pollock

Smaller flakes of white flesh; most neutral-tasting fish; this method seemed to work well; similar to cod overall.

5. Hake

“Shellfish-like” flavor (like scallops); moist and flaky; thick and meaty like cod.

overhead photo of striped bass, halibut, mahi-mahi, and red snapper

White Fish You Shouldn’t Pan-Roast

FishTasters’ Comments

1. Striped Bass

“More fishy” flavor; meaty fish; closer to swordfish and halibut than other white fish tasted here.

2. Halibut

Short fibers, spongy, meaty texture; good color; feels dry and not best method for halibut; exudes no liquid.

3. Mahi-Mahi

“Tastes like chicken,” meaty, tuna/swordfish-like fibers; feels overcooked with this method and to this temp.

4. Red Snapper

Stringier/meatier texture; has a tuna-ish texture and flavor; feels overcooked/dried out using this method.

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