Getting to Know: Supermarket Fish
More than 27,000 types of fish exist in the world, but these 12 routinely appear in your local grocery store.
Most supermarket Atlantic salmon is farmed and is available year-round whole, in fillets, or as cross-cut steaks (pictured), Atlantic salmon has a meaty texture and mild flavor that pairs well with fragrant herbs like dill or chives.
BEST FOR: Grilling, roasting, or broiling, as in our Glazed Salmon with Dilly Mustard Sauce (see related content).
Most Pacific salmon—including sockeye, coho, and Chinook (also called king)—are caught in the wild. Wild salmon is available seasonally between late spring and early fall (although frozen can be found year-round). Wild salmon has a stronger flavor than Atlantic salmon and deep red flesh.
BEST FOR: Grilling, broiling, or roasting.
Fresh cod is available year-round from cold North American and European waters. In recent years, shrinking stocks have been closely monitored. Cod’s medium-size flakes and mild flavor make it very versatile.
BEST FOR: Sautéing, poaching, steaming, or baking, as in our Grilled Cod and Summer Squash Packets (see related content).
Most catfish sold in the U.S. are farmed in the Mississippi delta, although imports from Asia are on the rise. Wild catfish can have a muddy flavor, but farmed catfish tastes cleaner and milder. Fillets should be white to off-white; avoid fish that is yellow.
BEST FOR: Sautéing or frying, as in our Fried Catfish with our Comeback Sauce (see related content).
A member of the cod family, haddock has firm, mild flesh that is perfect for fried fish and chips. Finnan haddie, or cold-smoked haddock, is particularly popular in Scotland.
BEST FOR: Pan frying, deep frying, or baking, as in our Oven-Fried Fish Sticks with Old Bay Dipping Sauce (see related content).
Common types of this mostly freshwater fish include rainbow, lake, brown, and brook trout. Available wild or farmed, trout has a soft texture and delicate flavor. Trout is often prepared whole (look out for translucent pinbones) but is also available in fillets. The freshest trout has clear, bright eyes.
BEST FOR: Grilling (whole fish) or pan frying (fillets).
Flat fish like flounder swim along the ocean floor and have fillets on the top and bottom of their bodies. Many flounder species are sold as sole (not to be confused with Dover sole, a more expensive fish). Look for pure, milky-white flesh. The faintly sweet, delicate flesh works best with gentle cooking methods.
BEST FOR: Baking or steaming.
While bluefin tuna is prized and used primarily for sushi, yellowfin (or ahi) tuna is the type you’re likely to find in your local fish market, usually cut into steaks. The uncooked flesh is a bright ruby red with a firm texture. Tuna is best when cooked to rare or medium-rare; well-done tuna turns gray and loses its moisture.
BEST FOR: Grilling or pan frying.
One of the most extensively farmed fish in the world, tilapia thrives in warm freshwater environments. Tilapia’s lean meat, which should be white to pinkish-white when purchased, stays moist when cooked. It has an oily texture and muddy flavor; in general, we prefer flounder or catfish.
BEST FOR: Baking, braising, or poaching.
Swordfish caught off the Atlantic coast is available fresh year-round, although its peak season is summer. Most swordfish is sold in steaks. It has a slightly sweet flavor and meaty texture. Look for firm flesh without discolored edges.
BEST FOR: Grilling, as in our Grilled Swordfish with Eggplant Salad (see related content).
Snapper varieties abound in the Atlantic, but only one variety (L. campechanus) is recognized by the FDA as “red snapper.” With beautiful, deep-red skin, it is often sold whole, but snapper is also available in firm, pink fillets. Be sure to remove the gills (bright red gills are an indicator of freshness) when preparing this fish whole.
BEST FOR: Roasting or grilling.
Halibut is a flat fish that can grow to several hundred pounds, yielding fillets and steaks that are firm, meaty, and mild. Look for flesh that is almost translucent, without a yellowish cast. Halibut’s low fat content makes it prone to overcooking.
BEST FOR: Baking, as in our Potato-Crusted Halibut with Tartar Sauce (see related content).