Skip to content

black cod: sable on your table

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We are so thrilled to bring you what is without a doubt my favorite local fish! It has been among my favorites since we started this business in 2003 when I could hardly even sell a piece at the Farmers’ Markets. I’d have to promise my weary customers they would LOVE this fish with offer of their money back if not. People just weren’t familiar with it. When Hans was first fishing it locally he recounts barely being able to give it away. In 2003 we were selling it for less than $9/lb filleted.  These days you’re lucky if you can add just $10 to that and get it for less than $20/lb.  For years, the largest sablefish have been shipped overseas to Asian markets. Now the demand is so high that almost all black cod you can come by locally these days is being swooped up and shipped out. In fact, sablefish are the highest valued finfish per pound in Alaska and Pacific coast commercial fisheries.

I am beyond excited to have landed this local Monterey Bay specialty for our CSS “Seafoodies,” caught just yesterday out of Santa Cruz.  At H&H, farmers’ markets or CSS, Hans cuts the bones out of each and every fillet. That’s right folks –  they’re bone free.  We’ve always skinned them too as they are today but were just discussing that we may try skin-on in the future. We’ll see…

Sablefish, although often referred to as a black cod, are not actually a cod at all. They look like cod but are part of the Anoplopomatidae family, a group of fishes confined to the North Pacific Ocean. It is caught from Alaska to Baja year-round.  Hans tells stories of his days spent fishing black cod in Alaska and how he would watch in amazement as killer whales would come up and delicately pluck the black cod right off the long line hooks… just like picking a grape off a vine, eating everything but the hook.

If you are a fan of the very endangered / non-PC fish Chilean Seabass, then Black Cod is the fish for you – it is very similar in both texture and flavor yet SUPER sustainable and one of the most well-managed fisheries on the Pacific Coast. It is extremely rich in Omega-3 oils, containing approximately as much EPA and DHA as wild salmon. Few fish are as silky rich in omega-3 laden fats as the sablefish and the fat acts as a buffer against overcooking. The only customers I find that don’t care for it are those that do not like a “soft” fish. It is creamy and delicate with a white meat that flakes nicely, often referred to as butter cod for its texture and buttery flavor.

Here comes my favorite part: It is extremely versatile and easy to cook; bake, broil, steam, poach, sauté, etc. RELAX. If your fish cooking skills are lame then have no fear – you can’t mess this fish up. Keep it simple…if not feeling ambitious try what I do more often than anything – just put it under the broiler with a little salt and pepper. IT DOES NOT need oil added since it is already such a moist fish. Given nice hot heat the oil will come to the surface cooking it in its own flavorful juices… yummm.

More tips:
On the grill(?!) This can be tricky, but if you insist, the key to grilling black cod is a SUPER clean, well-oiled grill or the use of a grilling fish basket-type tool. The fat in the fish will make it nice and crispy but will also tend to make it stick. Consider wrapping it in foil on the grill for a poached effect with some veggies inside (tomatoes, mushrooms, greens, whatever’s in season – anything will work so long as the cooking times needed are similar.)
Pan roasted. Just a simple sauté over medium-high heat works great. Fish is finished when flaky or no longer opaque.
Steamed. We love to steam our black cod over any leafy green veggies (bok choy, chard, spinach, etc.) Lay down a bed of veggies, add a broth or wine and maybe a splash of soy sauce or other salt. Put the fish on top of the greens and COVER with a lid. Fish is finished when cooked throughout, insert a fork and it should separate easily.

In honor of the black cod I may have to steer away from my usual Paleo ways (for the following at least) and share the traditional Miso marinated/glazed black cod recipe. Here’s a traditional version made popular by the famous Nobu restaurants, the result is a tender and moist fish with a hint of salty, sweet, slightly carmelized goodness. Although this and most miso recipes call for the fish to marinate for 2-3 days, If you’re too anxious to eat it up just go ahead and coat the fish in the marinade and bake as directed. You could also go middle of the road and let the fish marinate just overnight. Like I said, you can’t go wrong.

Miso Marinated Black Codmiso marinated black cod

3 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons sake
1/2 cup white miso paste
1/3 cup sugar
1 pound black cod fillet
Vegetable oil, for grilling
Pickled ginger, for serving

In a small saucepan, bring the mirin and sake to a boil. Whisk in the miso until dissolved. Add the sugar and cook over moderate heat, whisking, just until dissolved. Transfer the marinade to a large baking dish and let cool. Add the fish and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Heat a grill pan and oil it. Scrape the marinade off the fish (do not rinse.) Add the fish and cook over high heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Flip the fish onto a heavy rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, until flaky. Transfer to plates and serve with pickled ginger.
adapted by hr from food & wine magazine

Sauteed Black Cod with Ginger-Soy Glaze

3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, grated
1 pound black cod fillet
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoons olive/grapeseed oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

Combine first 7 ingredients in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish. Add fish, turning to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes. Remove fish from dish and reserve marinade. Sprinkle fish evenly with salt and pepper. Heat a large nonstick skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and lay fish in pan, skin side down. Cook 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned and to desired degree of doneness.
While fish cooks, pour reserved marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 7 minutes, or until marinade is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Brush fish with glaze and garnish with sliced green onion.
adapted by hr from

Chili-Roasted Black Cod

1 pound black cod fillet
1 teaspoon chili powder (+/- to taste)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 tablespoons butter (I subbed coconut oil…delish!)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 lime, juiced

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a roasting pan with cooking spray. Lay the cod fillet(s) on the pan and sprinkle with chili powder, oregano, and salt (optional). Roast 5 to 7 minutes or until the cod is just opaque and flakes when separated with a fork. Meanwhile, melt the butter (or coconut oil) in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, swirling constantly, just until it begins to brown/melt. Add the cumin and lime juice and continue to cook, swirling 1 minute longer. Remove the cod from the oven. Drizzle the cumin-lime sauce over the fish.
This recipe was suggested served with Orange Sweet Potatoes and Minted Sugar Snap Peas, both of which sound amazing.
adapted by hr from

Mustard-Glazed Black Cod 

1 cup snipped chives
1 cup baby spinach
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
1 pound black cod fillet
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the broiler and position a rack 8 inches from the heat. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the chives and spinach and blanch for 30 seconds, just until bright green. Drain and rinse under cold water; squeeze dry. Transfer the chives and spinach to a blender. Add the olive oil and puree until smooth. Season with salt.
Place the cod on a foil-lined baking sheet, brush with the mustard and season with salt and pepper. Broil for about 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and lightly browned on top; drizzle the chive puree around or on top and serve.
Click here to see original recipe as pictured with potatoes and olives.
adapted by hr from

Well folks, I hope you love this beautiful fish as much as I do. Please share your black cod experience with us ! We love hearing from you and if you share on our Facebook page, other members can learn from you too…tips, favorites, recipes, do’s, don’ts, photos…we love it all. Thank you!


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tara #

    I simply broiled this beautiful sablefish tonight…all I added was salt and pepper, and you were right. It was absolutely magnificent. so buttery, without any oil added! I ate some of it plain, added lemon to some, all was yummmmmmm. Accompanied with grilled zucchini and a quinoa/couscous blend. Perfect, simple, healthy dinner. THANK YOU H&H!!!

    March 7, 2012
    • nay #

      it was teriffic! 😉

      October 22, 2013

Back talk? Go for it...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: