Can You Eat Halibut?

Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post covering an often asked question when it comes to fishing for these large flatfish… can you eat Halibut? Now, the short answer is absolutely, if fact, it actually tends to be a species that is targeted more as a table fish than for sport.

The flesh is generally white with large flakes and a mild, sweet taste’ – and a favorite for use in special occasions such as weddings and religious ceremonies.

So, let’s look at the in and outs of consuming Halibut below…

What are Halibut?

So, before we start, let’s just quickly recap what we are talking about here. Halibut is actually a name for a group of three species of large flatfish from the right eye flounder family.  They are a saltwater ground dwelling species found in the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Artic Oceans.

It draws its name from haly (holy) and butte (flat fish) for its popularity on Catholic holy days with three species as follows:

  • Atlantic halibut – lives in the North Atlantic
  • Pacific halibut –  lives in the North Pacific Ocean
  • Greenland halibut – lives in the cold northern Atlantic, northern Pacific, and Arctic Oceans

Halibut are a flat fish with elongated bodies, a large mouth, and flanks that vary in colour from dark brown to greenish grey, pale grey or white.  Their size range is also extremely large with males ranging upward to about 60 pounds and the females to about 600 pounds in weight.  Additionally, Pacific Halibut can attain a length of over 8 feet and a width of over 5 feet and live to up to 40 years.

Note: Due to concerns around stock levels, many states/jurisdictions implement strict seasonal fishing timelines as well as other limitations such as the number of lines/hooks allowable at one time and slot limits too. 

can you eat halibut - Halilbut on a plate

Can you eat Halibut?

Definitely! Halibut is an extremely popular table fish with white, large flakes and a mild, sweet taste. In fact, It is often targeted specifically as table fish for both general use and special occasions as well.

Are they any good?

 

As above, Halibut produce a flesh that is firm with a flaky texture and delicate, mild taste. They are similar to most saltwater species in that the flesh is clean and not very oily.

As they can grow quite large however it is worthwhile keeping in mind that:

  • Older varieties tend to taste a lot stronger or ‘fishier’ so if you are planning to keep one for dinner, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the biggest one you catch.
  • Larger varieties are also more susceptible to worms and parasites and well as higher levels of mercury in some locations.

In most cases, as long as you keep them of legal size without going for the biggest one you can find and you are within your slot limit, then you are generally ok.

Preparation

As with most white meated fish, Halibut do not need to be bled upon capture however if you plan to consume it, then it is always a good idea to place them on ice as soon as possible after it is landed. Many use an ice slurry in a cooler which is generally a ratio of 2 parts ice to 1 part water for this purpose.

From here, preparation will be determined by your planned consumption. If they are to be eaten whole then you will need to clean and scale them beforehand – Halibut do have very very small scales on their skin. If you plan to pan fry, then you can either scale and fillet or fillet and skin. Keep the meat refrigerated or on ice at all times before and after preparation.

can you eat halibut - Halilbut steaks

Can you freeze uncooked fillets?

Yes – Raw Halibut can be frozen for up to around 6 months. It must at the very least be gutted and cleaned and placed in an airtight bag (ziplock bags are good here) prior to being placed in the freezer.

If you are planning to eat the flesh raw, then it should also be frozen for around 7 days so that any parasites located within the flesh can be killed. This generally means that it is frozen immediately after it is caught.

Can they be eaten raw?

As above – Halibut can be eaten raw as long as it is frozen beforehand – It is not recommended eating Halibut raw immediately after catching.

How to cook Halibut

At the end of the day, due to its white flesh, Halibut can be prepared in the same manner as most other saltwater species in that they can be:

Grilled

Halibut fillets can be cooked over charcoal or gas grills with any and all spices and seasonings as you see fit. Below is a common recipe:

  1. Heat a grill hot but not smoking.
  2. Pat fillets dry then spread butter or oil over the non-skinned side (or both if fillet is skinned) along with salt and pepper.
  3. Grill fillets until just cooked (fillets start to flake) – Do not overcook as the meat will go dry.
  4. Consume with salad or grilled vegetables.

You can of course use any other herbs or spices on the flesh to taste.

Pan Fried

As above, but in a pan – I like to add garlic to the butter when I pan fry white fish fillets with the salt and pepper as well. I have seen many pan fried Halibut recipes with Asian spices used too so that is also worth a try. Of course, they can also be crumbed as well which entails:

  1. Gather three bowls and in the first, place some flour, eggs (beaten) in the second and breadcrumbs in the third.
  2. Pat dry each fillet (skin on or off to preference) and then cover in flour.
  3. Sink the flour covered fillets into the egg mixture and then cover in breadcrumbs
  4. Shallow fry in the oil of your choice in a pan large enough to hold the full size of the fillet.
  5. Spritz with lemon juice and consume with fries (chips), salad or whatever else takes your fancy.

Note: For extra flavour, add salt and pepper to the flour or even some grated Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs. I have even seen some good recipes using BBQ rubs on the fillets as well.

can you eat halibut - Halilbut pan fried

Baked

For this next option, the fish is cooked whole or as a fillet in the oven. A cooking example is as below:

  1. Make sure the fish is cleaned and scaled.
  2. Score the skin with a sharp knife (This will stop it shrinking too much from the heat)
  3. Cover the outside with a lubricant such as butter or oil
  4. Fill the cavity with whatever takes your fancy (common options are garlic, herbs, spices, lemon, tomatoes or mustard)
  5. Bake in the oven until just cooked – again, it will dry out if left too long

Note: Based on my research over a number of recipes, a 5 – 8 oz Fillet will take around 15 – 30 minutes in a 375 deg oven.

Smoked

And finally, smoking is another commonly used method for cooking Halibut. You will need to be careful here that you don’t dry it out but if you get it right, then it is a truly fantastic way to enjoy your catch. Basics of smoking Halibut are as follows:

  1. Prepare your fish in a brine or marinade of choice the night before (this helps add flavor and keep it from drying out).
  2. Start your smoker and get it to around 200 – 225deg – Alderwood, pecan or wood from a fruit tree will work best here.
  3. Lay the fillet skin side down (again to protect from dryness) and cook from anywhere from 30 min to 3 hours depending on temp and size of fillet – just check it regularly so that you can get it off as soon as it is cooked.
  4. Eat immediately if possible as smoked foods have a habit of drying out if left.

Conclusion

And there you go – my response to the question of whether you can eat Halibut. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences – or recipes – would love to see your recipes below too.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun

Paul

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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Paul