How to Buy and Prepare Delicious Sablefish

By Laura Barker, Dirty Apron Cooking School

Sablefish is a signature dish for many chefs on the West Coast. Bring restaurant-quality sablefish to your dinner table with these tips on buying and preparing this delicious dish.

The Star of the Plate

Sablefish, also known as butterfish or black cod, is a popular item here on the West Coast. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also easy to cook because it's fatty and moist.

Eric Ripert, chef at Le Bernardin restaurant in New York and arguably one of the best seafood cooks in the world, says, “The fish is the star of the plate.” In other words, he celebrates the fish by enhancing its flavour and texture: nothing else. So to make delicious sablefish, you’ll want to buy the freshest fish you can find.

How to Choose the Freshest Fish

If you’re not catching the fish yourself, you can establish a relationship with a good fishmonger who can tell you about the freshest catch of the day. Fresh fish have shiny, bright skin—nothing dull about it. You want to see bright, clear eyes—not milky. And you want bright-red, vibrant gills—not dull and muted. When you press down on the flesh, your finger shouldn’t leave an indentation. That indicates the fish is dehydrated and isn’t fresh. Your fish should smell like the sea, with no faint whiff of rot. In other words, your fish should look as if it was just plucked from the water. A good fishmonger is your best friend when it comes to advice for cooking fish like an expert.

When buying raw fish for sushi or a ceviche, be sure to source fish that is specially processed for raw consumption. Generally that means the fish has been frozen at –35°C for 15 hours, or at –20°C for 7 days, to kill parasites. The term “sashimi grade,” isn’t an official guideline, by the way. There is no regulatory body ensuring anything stamped “sashimi grade” or “sushi grade” is guaranteed suitable for raw consumption. That’s another reason why you need to make sure you’re dealing with a credible fishmonger who knows how to purchase and store seafood.

A Quintessentially West Coast Recipe

Once you have purchased your sablefish, we suggest a Miso Sake Roasted Sablefish recipe to enhance its natural buttery flavour without overpowering it. This dish made its debut in The Dirty Apron Cooking School’s popular Izakaya Kings cooking class, and instantly became a staff and customer favourite.

Go To Recipe >

Dirty Apron’s seafood chart has more information on fish characteristics and cooking times.