Halibut is an oft-desired fish for a variety of reasons. It’s delicious, it’s easy to cook, and – aside from the Atlantic halibut – it’s plentiful. If you’d like to serve halibut at your next dinner party, however, you might be stumped as how to buy the fish. Know what to look for and determine how much to buy with this halibut buying guide.
What to Look For
Halibut is available year-round, but the fish is best between March and September. Therefore, if you want to buy fresh halibut, try to do so between these months. Frozen fish has fewer time restrictions but look for catch dates close to when you’re purchasing. Halibut is available as fresh or frozen whole fish, fillets, and steaks, and it is often farm-raised but occasionally wild.
If you are buying whole halibut, the fish should be taut and firm but with a subtle white sparkle. As always, avoid any fish with red or yellow discoloration, especially on the bottom side of the fish. If you’re buying fresh, the whole fish, fillet, or steak should smell like seawater.
If you are buying fresh halibut fillets, the flash should appear translucent and/or very lightly green in color. If you are purchasing fresh fish with fat, the fat should be silver, white lightly yellow, or copper, but never green or deep yellow.
How Much Halibut Should You Buy?
Like most fish, halibut can be tricky to gauge when buying for a crowd. The easiest way to figure it out is to decide on what type of cut you’d like to buy. If you are serving fish steaks, each person will likely eat between 1/3 and ½ of a pound. The same is true for fish fillets. However, if you are serving a whole fish, each person will likely eat between ¾ and 1 pound. Do your best to not buy more than you can eat in that evening; freezing pre-cooked halibut, especially when prepared with sauces and seasonings, is never a great idea.
How to Store Your Purchase
Halibut has very little natural oil, which means the fish will dry out easily while cooking or if improperly stored. Buy fresh halibut the day you plan to eat it. When you get home, remove the fish from its store packaging and place it in a tight-sealed container. Place this container in the refrigerator at the bottom or coldest part. Remember to never keep uncooked fish in the fridge for longer than one or two days.
If you want to freeze your halibut, remember to keep it in the coldest part of the freezer. Consider pre-treating the fish portions to increase the fish’s firmness. To do this combine around a quarter of a cup of salt with 4 cups of cold water. Dip the halibut in the mixture for about 20 seconds, then use your desired freezing method. Do not keep uncooked fish in the freezer for longer than six months.
If you choose to freeze your purchase, you have a variety of freezing methods at your disposal. Layer wrapping is among the most popular. To do this, wet the halibut, then wrap the pieces tightly in plastic wrap. Wrap the pieces again with foil. If you are freezing several portions, package steaks and fillets individually and layer them with waxed paper. This will make separation easier after they thaw.
- When you’re ready to cook your fish, check out our guide for cooking halibut.