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Cod – the true sustainable white fish

Cod – the true sustainable white fish

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Yes it is true, we can eat cod again – and now with a clear conscience. For a number of years the industry has been driving the message of eating less cod by replacing it with alternative sustainable options such as Haddock, Pollack, Gurnard and Mackerel. As all would have heard at the turn of this year mackerel from all sources was downgraded by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) to a fish ‘based on available information this species should probably not be considered sustainable at this time’ or more concerning ‘should not be considered sustainable, and the fish is likely to have significant environmental issues associated with its production’. Although this decision caused some outcry within certain sectors of the industry it actually followed the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) suspension of all certified mackerel fisheries more than 6 months previous and was wholly justified when considering the potential issues of oversubscribed self implemented quotas by certain countries involved

Hidden behind the press associated with this issue of the new mackerel advice was a downgrading of other species previously suggested as good sustainable alternatives to cod. The most notable, Tub Gurnard and Pollack, were downgraded and reductions in quotas for Haddock caused additional supply concerns and subsequent increased prices throughout the industry. However, there was one big winner and this was the cod stocks throughout the Barents Sea which after years of successful management have shown huge increases in spawning stock biomass resulting in a staggering allocation of 1 million tons of quota for 2013! The 1 million tons is shared between Russia and Norway and of the 444,740 tons for Norway over 75% is line caught with huge volumes of landings being MSC certified; The Icelandic fisheries are also currently classed as sustainable. As a direct result of these increased volumes the price point is also much improved on last year and coupled with the Norwegian and most of the Icelandic line and Demersal otter trawl caught stocks having a green 2 MCS rating there seems little reason not to reconsider those beautiful white flakes. So maybe the time has come to replace the tired ‘sustainable alternative’ of Pollack on the menu with the true certified sustainable option of Atlantic cod, but be sure you know its provenance?

Depot Sales Manager – Southbank Fresh Fish, London

Have a look at a few of Jamie’s cod recipes, or even just peruse our fish category.

Top ten sustainable fish swaps

The Sustainable Fish City: Top Ten Swaps have been devised with advice from expert organisations that contribute to the Sustainable Fish City working party (see the About page for more information). The top swaps are now also available as pdf downloads:

We have also included tips on where to buy more sustainable alternatives, click on the name of a fish below to find out more.

Overall, UK consumers need to halve the amount of meat and dairy in our diets to keep climate change within 1.5 degrees of warming. The remainer should come from agro-ecologial production or sustainable fishing. There's more about eating fish in a climate and nature emergency on our dedicated page.

Please feel free to use this information elsewhere, but if you do so, please let us know ([email protected]) and please include a link to Sustainable Fish City:

Why swap?

There are lots of different species of tuna, a few of which are critically endangered and some of which are caught in ways that damage other marine life.

Top swaps for tuna

Try Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified albacore tuna &ndash hand-caught in the Pacific Ocean. Albacore has very light, firm and delicately flavoured meat, and is available canned and in jars. Most canned tuna is skipjack, the most resilient species of tuna, with all stocks currently healthy &ndash choose pole and line, handline or troll caught.

Why swap?

Salmon are sometimes farmed very intensively, leading to serious environmental problems. Also, farmed salmon have to be fed large quantities of feed made of wild-caught fish, and the fish used to make the feed can have conservation issues of its own.

Top swaps for salmon

Why not try MSC certified Alaskan wild salmon. It's much leaner than farmed salmon, so be careful not to overcook it. Alternatively, look out for certified organic farmed salmon, trout, or try an oily-fish alternative like herring or mackerel

Why swap?

Our love of this chip-shop favourite has led some haddock stocks to be over-fished. And haddock often swim with cod (see below), meaning that haddock fisheries may catch both fish.

Top swaps

Look out for MSC certified haddock from Scotland or Norway, or try a different firm, white fish such as hake or coley (often sold as saithe), which has an undeserved reputation as something you feed to the cat but, when spanking fresh, is delicious.

Why swap?

Some stocks of cod are seriously overfished.

Top swaps for cod

Try UK-landed pollock, coley or hake, or MSC certified Alaskan pollock. If only cod will do, go for MSC certified cod from the Arctic, Atlantic & Pacific oceans.

Why swap?

King or tiger prawns are usually farmed in the tropics, often very intensively and in ways which can seriously damage local communities and the environment. The fish used as feed has been linked to slavery.

Top swaps for prawns

Choose organic tiger prawns, or for a more local option, go for creel-caught Scottish langoustines (also known as Dublin Bay prawns or scampi) - but check out our specific advice for langoustines and scallops. Or look out for the smaller MSC-certified cold-water prawns from Canada and greenland. Like prawns, crab is as good with strong flavours like chilli as it is plain with lemon and mayonnaise.

Why swap?

Left to their own devices, plaice can live for 50 years or more. They grow and reproduce very slowly, making them vulnerable to overfishing. Many UK populations are in serious decline

Top swaps for plaice

More sustainable flatfish choices include flounder, dab or lemon sole, or go for MSC certified plaice, or MSC certified Dover sole.

Why swap?

Big, slow-growing 'game' fish like swordfish are particularly vulnerable to over-fishing.

Top swaps for swordfish

Nothing similar fits the sustainability bill, but jig-caught squid, herring and sardines stands up to strong flavours and is delicious grilled or on the barbeque.

Where you can buy top swaps for swordfish

Why swap?

Scientists recommend reducing fishing UK stocks by 80%. Fish feed is a concern for farmed seabass.

Top swaps for sea bass

Organically farmed sea bass from Wales, or line-caught black bream, porgy or seabream. ASC-Certified pangasius (often sold as &lsquobasa&rsquo) is a good alternative.

Why swap?

Sadly, the once &ldquocommon&rdquo skate is now critically endangered, and several other species of skates and rays are overfished.

Top swaps

Try an under-loved UK-landed species such as dab, pouting or sole

Why swap?

Halibut is a Slow-growing, long-lived species. Atlantic stocks are considered endangered

Top swaps

MSC certified Pacific halibut, Scottish farmed halibut or organic gilthead bream.

2. Atlantic cod fish

The first Europeans to reach North America were fishers who followed the cod population across the North Atlantic. For a long time, the Atlantic cod fishery thrived and supported the coastal economy of North America. However, years of overfishing and incompetent practices took a heavy toll on the Atlantic cod fish population, which took a drastic dive in the 1990s. The Atlantic cod fishery collapse not only put thousands of people out of work but also brought this popular fish species to the brink of extinction and caused fundamental changes in the North Atlantic food webs.

Why you should not eat Atlantic cod fish

Despite a moratorium on Atlantic cod fishing, trawling for other fish species in the area continue to negatively affect cod population recovery efforts because of which the Atlantic cod is still very close to extinction. If you can’t live without your regular supply of fish and chips (they are almost always made with cod fish!), you should avoid the North Atlantic cod fish and instead choose other whitefish like the Pacific cod, which has a strong population in Alaska.

Pacific cod vs. Atlantic cod

When you compare Pacific cod vs. Atlantic cod, you’ll notice several differences though they are closely related. The North Pacific cod is smaller in size and darker in color than Atlantic cod. The Pacific cod fillet also has a milder, savory flavor profile with firm, chunky flakes while the Atlantic cod is sweeter and has bigger flakes. Pacific cod contains low levels of mercury while the Atlantic cod is moderate in mercury.

Atlantic cod nutrition

Nutrition-wise, both Atlantic cod and Pacific cod are very similar. Both fish species are a good source of vitamin B, niacin, phosphorous, and selenium,

Atlantic cod nutrition: One serving of cooked Atlantic cod (85 grams) contains 90 calories, 19 grams of protein, and one gram of fat
Pacific cod nutrition: One serving of cooked Pacific cod (85 grams) contains 85 calories, 20 grams of protein, and less than one gram of fat

More Atlantic cod facts:

  • If you regularly consume cod liver oil for its nutritional benefits, find out if it is sourced from wild Atlantic cod or wild Pacific cod. Wild Pacific cod sourced from Alaska is one of the best and most sustainable sources for fish liver oil.
  • The female of the Atlantic cod species releases hundreds of millions of eggs during its lifetime though only a few of these reach adulthood.

Cod recipes

Cod has captured the hearts and minds of civilisations all over the world for thousands of years. In Italy, cod is so common that is has different names according to the way in which it is presented – depending on what you're buying you might hear it referred to as merluzzo (fresh or frozen fish), stoccafisso (air cured) or baccalà (salt cod). The latter, baccalà, is commonly eaten as part of the Italian Christmas Eve meal, known as La Vigilia or 'The Feast of the Seven Fishes'. With its succulent, meaty white flesh and distinctive flavour cod remains ever popular, despite recent concerns of overfishing take care to buy your fish from a sustainable source.

This collection of delicious cod recipes showcases the flavourful white fish to perfection in a variety of interesting ways. Teresa Buongiorno marinates the fish in a heady mix of herbs in her Confit cod recipe, while the Cerea Brothers' pan-fried cod fillet recipe is served with corn bisque and a creamy corn bavarois. The Cerea Brothers also share a fantastic seafood pasta recipe, Linguine with cod and Amatriciana sauce, which can be served as an elegant Italian starter dish or scaled up for a delicious lunch.

Everyday Cod Recipes

Need to shake things up at dinnertime? Try cod. It has a mild flavor that pairs well with a variety of seasonings, making it a great choice for everything from fish sticks to tacos.

Related To:

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Photo By: Christopher Testani

Pan-Fried Cod with Slaw

Beer-Battered Fish and Chips

Our take on this classic British pub grub is just right. Rice flour, baking powder and beer in the batter keep the breading light and crisp, and making your own "chips" is definitely worth it. The double-frying method at two different oil temperatures ensures that the potatoes are perfectly golden and never soggy.

How to make fried cod:

The first step to making fried cod is to make sure that you season the fish liberally with salt and pepper. You’ll season the crust too, but seasoning the fish helps create layers of flavor.

Next, you’ll want to set up an assembly line of sorts to coat the fish. On one plate you’ll have the flour. Another bowl with whisked eggs and finally a plate with seasoned panko bread crumbs.

First, you will dredge each piece of cod in the flour, then dunk it in the egg and finally press into the panko. And repeat until all the fish is coated.

Next, fry the fish. I use a heavy bottomed pan and heat an inch of oil to 350 degrees. It’s important to fry the fish in batches so that you don’t over crowd the pan. If you over crowd the pan, the fish will steam more than fry so they won’t be as crispy.

While I’m cooking the different batches, I like to keep the cooked fish on top of a cooling rack thats set on a baking sheet. This helps keep the bottom of the fish from getting soggy as it sits.

To keep it warm, I set my oven temperature to warm (170 degrees). Don’t cover it with aluminum foil because the steam will be trapped making the fish soggy.

Basically, steam is the mortal enemy to crispy fried cod.

  • Ingredients for Dipping Sauce:
  • 1/3 cup low sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. minced red chili
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. sugar

  1. Thoroughly mix dipping sauce ingredients set aside.
  2. In a deep frying pan, sauté bok choy and mushrooms in peanut and sesame oils over medium-high heat until crisp-tender. Remove and keep warm.
  3. Wipe pan clean. Bring 1-inch of water to boil turn off heat. Place metal steamer basket in pan and open up sides. Portion ginger and 3/4 of green onions in basket. Rinse any ice glaze from frozen Alaska Cod under cold water place fillets in steamer. Return water to boil cover loosely and steam just until fish is opaque throughout, about 5 to 7 minutes. (Reduce cook time by half for fresh or thawed fillets).
  4. Serve Alaska Cod over sautéed vegetables with dipping sauce garnish with remaining green onion slices.

  • 1-1 1/4 pounds cod (see Tip) or tilapia fillets, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch

Season fish with 1 teaspoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic and 1 teaspoon thyme cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add wine, tomatoes and the fish to the pan bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the fish is cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the fish to a large plate keep warm.

Whisk cream and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to the pan, along with the remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Divide the fish and sauce among 4 shallow bowls.

How to Pan-Fry Cod

Even a beginner chef can master a cod dish with the right tools and techniques. This delicate fish is light and flakey, which has a tendency to break while you handle it.Thankfully there are several simple ways to mitigate this dilemma and prevent your fish from coming apart in the pan. All you need to do is properly prep your cod, use the right skillet and the best cooking oils, and you&rsquoll be set up for success.

Choose the Right Tools

Many culinary experts agree that it is best to use a super hot heavy-bottomed pan &mdash to get it there, let it sit over medium-high heat for several minutes before you start cooking.&rdquo A black steel pan or cast iron is also perfect. A stainless steel skillet also works.

Choosing Your Oil

Oils each have their own characteristics &mdash some have stronger flavors and higher or lower smoking points. Generally speaking, if you want your oil to cook your fish and result in a crispy skin without infusing your fish with too much additional flavor, than a neutral oil with a high smoke point such as canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil might be best.

Peanut oil also has a very high smoke point, but your dish will ultimately have some nutty flavor, making it a great choice for Thai, Vietnamese or Japanese-inspired flavor profiles. And for all the olive oil fiends out there, you can also use it to pan-fry your cod, but make sure you choose light or refined olive oil, not extra virgin.

Prepping Your Cod Loins

Preparation of your fish is a crucial part of maximizing the flavor and achieving the perfect texture, especially with cod. Remember, this is a very delicate fish, so you need to take a little extra care. Always use paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to pat your fish dry and extract as much moisture as you can.

Next, you&rsquore ready to season your cod, which means you&rsquoll need your spices of choice, as well as some specific ingredients that can help hold your fish together.

The last thing you want is for your fish filet to break apart mid process, and there are a few tricks to help protect it.

Many recipes call for a whisked egg and milk mixture, which coats the fish and creates a barrier that actually holds the fish together. And no, it doesn&rsquot make your fish taste like breakfast. The egg really just becomes a coating that lends itself to a crispy texture.

In addition to coating your cod in the egg mixture, using flour, breadcrumbs or some other breading can create a crunchy texture on the outside, while the inner flesh remains flakey and moist.

Don&rsquot Overcook Your Cod

Three to four minutes per side should be sufficient. Of course, a thicker cut of fish might take a little longer. In the end, you want your fish to be slightly flakey in texture and the outside should be golden and crisp. The fish is cooked through when the color in the center is opaque, and not at all translucent.

Pan-Fried Cod Recipes We Love

This Pan-Fried Cod with Slaw takes about 30 minutes to make, and the crunchy, refreshing slaw goes perfectly with the fried fish.

Another easy but tasty option is this Pan-Seared Cod with Preserved-Lemon Aioli. It&rsquos hard to not love a dish that involves creamy and indulgent lemon aioli. Plus, you can make extra sauce to serve with another dish.

And lastly, this Pan-Fried Cod is about as simple as it comes. And the key tip here, which actually applies to any fried fish recipe, is to drain the finished fish on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper before you serve it.

Seafood Recipes That Are Great Options for Entertaining

Serve seafood at your next meal that brings together hungry friends and family, and make it the appealing focus of the shared table. Why should you serve snappingly fresh fish, like the plump fillets of sautéed seabass pictured here, and crustaceans, both freshwater and salt? There are two compelling reasons: They are delicious, and they are good for us.

But there are many more reasons to entertain with these proteins: Fish and shellfish tend to sit more lightly in our tummies than their land-based, grazing brethren because their proteins are easier to digest&mdashwe rise lighter from a fishy table. Wild-caught mollusks and fish tend to be seasonal, and that's especially true if you like to shop locally and sustainably. There is something intrinsically satisfying and celebratory in knowing that you are enjoying a food whose season is fleeting. And for farmed fare (like salmon and branzino), it is reassuring to know that your favorite way of preparing them is unaffected by the time of year.

Visiting your local seafood and farmers' market is always an education in what is available locally (and when), and instant connectivity makes checking the sustainability of a particular catch or briny crop a cinch. If that's not an option for you, we recommend Monterrey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, to check on what seafood options are most sustainable at your local grocery store.

From a refreshing salad of raw Arctic char "cooked" simply in citrus juice and grilled oysters drenched in brown butter the most simple, seared fillets of sole and a satisfyingly ample pot pie of salmon, here are our top pescatarian picks to feed a crowd deliciously.

How to Make It

Preheat broiler to high with oven rack 6 to 8 inches from heat.

Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and paprika. Place fish on a baking sheet rub with paprika mixture. Broil fish until beginning to brown and fish flakes easily with a fork, 10 to 12 minutes. Keep warm.

Peel grapefruit and orange. Using a small knife, cut fruit into segments, and coarsely chop. Whisk together cilantro, lime juice, garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper stir in onion and citrus segments. Spoon salsa over fish.