Know Your Fish: Halibut

A delicious-looking portion of Pacific halibut
Photo by Rachael Martin

Culinary and Species Info

Know Your Fish: Halibut | Sitka Salmon Shares

Culinary Profile

Halibut’s beautiful bright white meat and mild flavor makes it a great choice for many of our white fish recipes. Its meat is medium-firm and breaks into large flakes when cooked, but take care not to overcook and dry out this very lean fish.

Because halibut is so lean, use a nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron pan with plenty of olive oil (or butter) to sear the fish. Remember that your fillet will continue to cook for a short amount of time after you remove it from the pan. Don’t cook until the flesh flakes. Rather, cook until the fish is firm in the center with a little spring when poked with a finger.

Halibut is one of our favorites for a fish fry, batter-dipped and served with tartar sauce and oven fries. Cut your fillet into chunks and add to chowders, soups, curries, and seafood stews. Halibut holds its shape when broiled, pan-seared or grilled, making it ideal for summer grilling, taco night, and everyday sandwiches. The white meat is even delicious served raw with a drizzle of lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt for a crudo or lightly cured in citrus juices for a ceviche.

Species Info

Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) are part of the flounder family and generally referred to as a flatfish. They have a white belly and brown green mix of colors on their top side to match the ocean floor. Both of their eyes are located on their top side to monitor prey and predators around them.

Young halibut have their eyes on both sides of their heads, but the left eye moves over to the right eye to the “top side” of their body. Adult halibut generally stay in the same area but migrate between shallow summer feeding grounds and winter spawning grounds in the deeper water of the continental slope.

Small halibut are known locally as "chicken" halibut, a term that comes from an old market category of halibut weighing 5 to 10 pounds. "Barn doors” are considered especially large. Anything over 200 pounds would fit this description.

Fishing Methods

All Pacific halibut caught by the Sitka Salmon Shares fleet are caught using longline hook-and-line gear. Fishermen set a groundline of baited hooks that rest on the ocean floor connected to surface buoys attached at either end. The hooks are baited with salmon, squid, or herring that attract halibut. After 12 to 24 hours the hooks are pulled back up to the surface and halibut over 32 inches are kept, while those smaller than 32 inches are returned to the ocean.

Learn more about the fishermen-owners and trusted partners who catch our halibut.
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