Howard L. Puckett
Many fish are labeled cod in the market because they share similar traits―firm, white, meaty flesh. Here's a rundown of the most common cod you'll find in markets.
Atlantic Cod (Scrod, Whitefish)
The quintessential firm, white fish, Atlantic cod was historically used for most of the fish in fish-and-chips. Now, Alaskan pollock is routinely substituted. Plentiful for 500 years, Atlantic cod could not keep up with demand with the advent of industrialized fishing. When cod is unavailable, substitute haddock, hake, cusk, tilapia, pollock, striped bass, or white sea bass.
Pacific Cod (Alaska Cod, True Cod, Grey Cod, Tara, Codfish)
Once dwarfed by Atlantic cod landings, Pacific cod is considered the world's second-most abundant white fish. Its mild flavor and flaky texture equals that of Atlantic cod.
Black Cod (Sablefish, Butterfish)
Not a true cod, most of this rich, buttery North Pacific fish is exported to Japan. Black cod mature quickly and have long life spans―the oldest recorded was 94 years old. That means they can reproduce early and long, making them a good sustainable seafood choice. Black cod makes an excellent substitute for Chilean sea bass. Due to its high fat content and mild flavor, black cod is ideal when smoked.
Lingcod (Buffalo Cod, Bluefish, White Cod)
This bottom-dwelling fish acquired its name because of a resemblance to cod and ling fish. Lingcod is a favorite with recreational anglers on the West Coast.
Rockfish (Rock Cod, Pacific Snapper)
Neither a cod nor a snapper, this finfish shares their firm texture, white flesh, and mild flavor. Although rockfish can live longer than 100 years, they mature late, making them especially vulnerable to overfishing.
Pollock (Alaskan Pollock)
This species of cod is considered the world's most abundant food fish. Atlantic pollock is oilier and stronger-tasting, while milder Pacific pollock is used in commercial fish sticks and fast-food fish sandwiches. Pollock is the fish most often used in surimi, or imitation crab.