Alaskan Black Cod vs. Cod: Know the Differences

Why do people refer to sablefish as black cod?

It has nothing to do with being a member of the cod family, simply because it’s not. Black cod was given the name due to its velvety black scales. It is similar in size and habitat to many cod species, but the similarities end there. Sablefish is a delicious dish in its own right. Know the differences between cod and Alaskan black cod as you shop for seafood online.

Anatomy and Appearance

The biggest difference in appearance between black cod and true cod is—you guessed it—the color. Black cod are very dark in color, with scales in shades of grey and greenish black. True Pacific cod are much paler and more of a dappled brown hue, with faint spots along their bodies.

A black cod has two short dorsal fins and a lateral line that’s barely visible. Meanwhile, a real cod boasts three dorsal fins, a noticeable lateral line, and a barbel, or fleshy filament, protruding from its chin.

Taste and Texture

Black cod, more accurately known as Alaskan sablefish, have a rich and buttery taste. In fact, “butterfish” is one of their many nicknames. Its fatty texture lends itself well to centerpiece dishes, and its not-overly-fishy taste is great for diners who don’t think they like seafood.

Cod, on the other hand, is much leaner and firmer. Its texture is perfect for flaking, and it’s often used to make fish sticks or patties. Pacific cod, in particular, is robust and savory without being overpowering.

Culinary Applications

Black cod is revered as a delicacy in many countries and cultures. Its high fat content makes it a prime candidate for the grill, fryer, or smoker. Smoked sablefish is a mainstay in American Jewish cuisine, where it’s often eaten on bagels. Japanese chefs also love to make black cod into sushi.

True Pacific or Atlantic cod, meanwhile, are more of a culinary workhorse. They can be flaked and shaped into sticks or patties, or deep-fried to make the classic British fish and chips.

Now that you know the differences between cod and Alaskan black cod, you can plan your next seafood meal with gusto. Sablefish is an entirely different animal than cod, so don’t get caught up in the nickname.