Pacific Halibut Flavor Profile

Halibut Flavor Scale

Halibut is a lean fish with mild, sweet tasting white flesh, large flakes and a firm but tender texture. Because of its leanness, this fish becomes dried-out if overcooked. Frozen halibut is denser and less moist than fresh halibut and is easier to overcook.

Typical Cooking Methods

Except for deep frying and sushi, I usually cook Halibut to an internal temp of about 125° – 130° F.  This leaves the fish tender and moist.  Below are common methods of cooking this fabulous fish.  My favorite is to grill or saute…and of course battered and fried Halibut & Chips!

  • Bake
  • Broil
  • Deep-Fry
  • Grill
  • Poach
  • Saute
  • Smoke
  • Steam
  • Sushi

Alternate Names

Pacific Halibut, Alaska Halibut, Cow of the Sea, Hippos of the Sea, Chicken Halibut (under 20 lbs), Hirame (Sushi)

Description (Hippoglossus stenolepis)

Pacific HalibutImage courtesy Wikipedia

Halibut are the largest of all flounders/flatfish. They have an average commercial catch weight of 25-30 lbs but can weigh over 600 lbs and be up to 8 feet long. When butchered they yield four fillets or fletches.

Halibut are a right-eyed flounder and have two distinctly colored sides. The top side is a mottled dark brown color, and the bottom side is off-white with slight tinges of pink. The females grow to the largest sizes, while males rarely reach weights over 50 pounds.

How To Fillet Whole Halibut

Thanks to Pacific Seafood for allowing me to make this video tutorial showing how to break-down a whole halibut into fillets. Suzie is the professional fishmonger giving the demo…I asked her to slow way down and take her time filleting so we could see her technique. Pay attention to her hands…she indicates specific techniques clearly.


Here is an example of a filleted Halibut with the carcass in the back, the removed skin in the center, the skin-side up view of the fillets on the right (skin removed), and the flesh-side up view of the fillets on the lower left.

How to Fillet Halibut


Fresh Availability

Fresh halibut availability chart: green areas show peak availability, light green show limited availability, gray indicates not available fresh. Frozen available all year long. FishChoice updates info about halibut, including commercial fishing quotas as they become available.  There is also fresh farmed Atlantic Halibut available from Canada and from a UK company called Gigha Halibut

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec


2014 Commercial Halibut Season: The commission set season dates of March 8 to Nov. 7, 2014. The International Pacific Halibut Commission approved a coast-wide catch limit of 27.5 million pounds, down 11% from 2013. It is also noteworthy that the 2013 limit was down 7 percent from 2012.

Butchering Yield Percentage

Item To Skin/On Fillets To Skin/Off Fillets Notes
Whole Fish, ungutted 56% 46% To Head/Off gutted = 69% – 79%
Whole Head/Off gutted 20/40 lb fish 68% 58%
Whole Head/Off gutted 10/20 lb fish 65% 55%
Skin/On Fillets 80% If you have yield info on this fish please comment below.
For detailed butchering yield % and recovery see Yield Percentage
Yield % varies according to a number of factors including: size of fish, season, sex, and the skill of your fishmonger.


Range & Habitat

Halibut Range & LocationAquaMaps Data sources: GBIF

Halibut are found on the Pacific Coast from northern California to the Bering Sea and from the Sea of Japan to Russia. They spend most of their time on the ocean bottom in deep waters, but can be found in shallow water as well.

Commercially caught fish by region is as follows: about 2% is from Washington & Oregon, about 15% from British Columbia, and approximately 83% is harvested from Alaskan waters.

Typical Wholesale Products

Fresh: H&G, Fletches (Fillets), Steaks
Frozen: H&G, Fletches (Fillets), Steaks, Breaded and Battered
Typical Sizes: 10/20, 20/40, 40/60
These typical sizes refer to the original size of the fish. So, you can order fillets from a 20/40 fish which will be roughly 3 – 6 lbs per fillet (fletch).

Additional Culinary Notes

Chalky Halibut

Chalky Halibut pic

Chalky Halibut is a fairly common condition which leaves the meat white, opaque, and a little mushy. While raw, it appears as though it has been cooked. And after it is cooked the meat is soft and falls apart.

The condition tends to occur more frequently during the warmer months and is thought to occur perhaps when a fish is on the long line too long, fights too hard, and perhaps even dies during the fight. Lactic acid builds up in the flesh and does not have a chance to release before death, which leaves the flesh more acidic. It can take 3 – 7 days for chalkiness to reveal itself.

If you receive chalky Halibut you should return it for credit. The fish is not “bad” in the sense of being unhealthy, but it is bad in the sense of being lower quality. For fish & chips it probably will make no difference on the plate. But guests may notice a textural difference in grilled or sautéed fillets. In the image the filet on the right is “chalky”, notice that the filet on the left has an almost transparent sheen to the flesh. Whereas the chalky filet is white and opaque.

Frozen Halibut

Frozen fish is more dense and less moist than fresh. It is easy to overcook and the most common customer complaint with frozen Halibut is that it is “dry”. The best methods for cooking frozen product is breaded or battered and deep-fried as these methods help hold the moisture in.

Sustainability Info

Name Alternate Names Catch Method Catch
Atlantic Halibut
Hippoglossus hippoglossus
Hirame Wild
Bottom Trawl
US Atlantic Red-Dot_20.png Red-Dot_20.png Red-Dot_20.png
Bottom Longline
Canadian Atlantic Red-Dot_20.png  na Red-Dot_20.png
Farmed Canada Yellow-icon_20.png Green-icon_20.png Yellow-icon_20.png
California Halibut
Paralichthys californicus
Chicken Halibut, Hirame, Monterey Halibut, Southern Halibut Wild
US Pacific – California Green-icon_20.png Green-icon_20.png na Yes
Hook & Line
US Pacific – California Green-icon_20.png Green-icon_20.png Green-icon_20.png Yes
Bottom Trawl
Yellow-icon_20.png Red-Dot_20.png Yellow-icon_20.png Yes
Set Gillnet
US Pacific – California Yellow-icon_20.png na Yellow-icon_20.png Yes
Greenland Turbot
Reinhardtius hippoglossoides
Greenland Halibut, Hirame Wild
Bottom Trawling
US, Canadian Pacific Yellow-icon_20.png Red-Dot_20.png Yellow-icon_20.png Yes
Bottom Longline
Alaska Yellow-icon_20.png Green-icon_20.png Yellow-icon_20.png
Pacific Halibut
Hippoglossus stenolepis
Alaskan Halibut, Hirame Wild
Bottom Longlines, Troll Lines
US Pacific Green-icon_20.png Green-icon_20.png Green-icon_20.png
Bottom Longlines
Canadian Pacific Green-icon_20.png Green-icon_20.png Yellow-icon_20.png
MSC Certified Fisheries
Disclaimer: The sustainability info above is accurate to the best of our knowledge. However, each program randomly updates their information without our knowledge. We therefore recommend that you verify the current accuracy of this information.

Green-icon_20.png = Best Choice/Recommended     Yellow-icon_20.png = Good Alternative     Red-Dot_20.png = Avoid/Not Recommended
Mar 2014

Brief Sustainability Summary: Atlantic Halibut should be avoided mainly because it has been over-fished. California Halibut is sometimes marketed as Pacific Halibut which is technically a different species and has a different sustainability rating. California Halibut have their lower rankings due to concerns over their limited range and degrading habitat. Gillnet caught California Halibut have the additional concern of by-catch issues. Greenland Turbo stocks are in good shape, but have a lower rating to bycatch and habitat damage from bottom trawling. For additional info on sustainable seafood and options for purchasing sustainable Halibut visit FishChoice.


Nutritional Information

based upon a 6 oz (171 grams) raw edible serving.

* Calories/Calories from fat 189
* Protein grams 36
* Fat grams 3.9
* Saturated fat grams .5
* Sodium milligrams 93
* Cholesterol milligrams 55
* Omega-3 grams .9
more on nutrition


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