Food Guide


Buying Tips

Quality cod is easy to recognize. Fresh cod never smells fishy, and the eyes should appear bright and clear, almost alive. The gills should be clean, and the skin moist and with tightly adhering, shiny scales. Fresh cod flesh will give slightly when you press it with a finger, then spring back into shape.


Atlantic cod, the mainstay of the New England fishery, is a lean, sweet fish, available fresh, or dried as salt cod, sometimes called bacalao. Pacific cod, also known as true cod, is caught in Pacific waters from California to Alaska and is often sold as frozen fillets. Haddock is a small, North Atlantic member of the cod family that has a delicate taste. Atlantic pollock, fished in New England waters, has a strong, sweet taste. Alaska pollock, also called wall-eye pollock, has white flesh and a firm texture and is often used in surimi. Cusk is a New England fish with chewy flesh. Whiting and hake, caught around the world, have flesh that’s somewhat soft.

Preparation, Uses, & Tips

Scale the fish by placing it in the sink under cold running water. Grasp the fish firmly by the gills and scrape off scales with a fish scaler or small, dull knife. Using short strokes, work from the tail to the head.

To remove the head, cut the flesh on both sides with a knife. If the fish is small, slice directly through the spine. For a larger fish, place the knife between vertebrae and tap the back of the knife with a hammer.

To fillet, use a sharp, thin knife. With the cod lying on its side, insert the knife behind the gills, and cut in an arc down to just above the backbone. Continue cutting parallel to the backbone toward the tail. Bring the knife up at the tail and remove the fillet.

To make steaks, place the cod on its side. With a sharp knife, cut slices 3/4 to 1/2-inch (1.25 to 1.9cm) thick perpendicular to the spine. Tap the back of the blade with a wooden mallet to cut through the spine.

The secret to successful cod cookery is to not overcook. Whichever of the following cooking methods you choose, your cod will be cooked when the flesh becomes opaque and is easily pierced with a fork.


Rinse the fish and pat dry with a paper towel. Place the whole fish, fillets, or steaks in a baking pan. Brush with butter or oil or cover with sauce made of liquid, herbs, spices, and vegetables. Bake in the oven at 400°F (200°C) until a knife slice in the thickest part reveals the flesh to be opaque but still moist.


Place fillets or steaks on perforated aluminum foil on the grill, 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15cm) above prepared coals or fire. Baste with butter, oil, or marinade, and close the hood of grill. Cook until fish is opaque and moist on the inside, about 6 to 8 minutes for fish less than 1-inch (2.5cm) thick, and 10 to 15 minutes for fish larger than 1-inch (2.5cm) thick.

Pan frying

Rinse cod, and pat dry with a paper towel. Dredge in flour and seasonings. Shake off excess flour. Heat the frying pan until hot, and add butter or oil. Place the fillets in the pan and cook, turning once, until fish is opaque but still moist in the center, about 2 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

Deep frying

Pour at least 1 1/2 inches (3.8cm) of oil into a wok or deep fryer; the cooker should be less than half full of oil. Heat oil to 375°F (190°C), using a thermometer to monitor temperature. Cut cod into similar sized pieces, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-inch (3. to 3.8cm) thick. Dip in batter, drain, and then slip pieces into the hot oil. Cook until brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.


Bring poaching liquid, consisting of water, broth, herbs, and spices, to a simmer. Slip in skinless fillets, then cover pan and keep poaching liquid at a simmer for about 8 minutes per inch (2.5cm) of thickness.


Rinse cod fillets or steaks and pat dry with a paper towel. Coat fish with flour, crumbs, or cornmeal if desired. Place fish on a rack above a baking dish. Preheat broiler and adjust oven rack so fish is 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10cm) from the element. Broil, turning once, until the fish is opaque but still moist in the center—about 3 to 10 minutes, depending on size of the fish.


Keep cod cool on the trip from the market to your house. Never let it stay unrefrigerated for long. To store cod, remove packaging, rinse under cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Fish deteriorates when it sits in its own juices, so place it on a cake rack in a shallow pan filled with crushed ice. Cover with cling wrap or foil and set in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Cod will store well this way for up to two days. When well-wrapped, cod can be kept frozen for up to two months in a refrigerator freezer and for three to four months in a deep-freeze. Using lined freezer paper, wrap the fish tightly from head to tail with at least two layers of paper. To thaw slowly, remove the freezer paper, place the cod in the pan, cover, and leave for 24 hours in the refrigerator. To thaw faster, place the whole fish in a sink with cool running water allowing about 30 minutes per pound (450g). For fastest thawing, use the defrost cycle of your microwave, allowing two to five minutes per pound (450g) with equal standing time in between zaps (as one minute defrost to one minute resting).

Nutrition Highlights

Cod (cooked, dry heat), 1 fillet (6 oz.) (180g)

  • Calories: 189
  • Protein: 41g
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Total Fat: 2g
  • Fiber: 0g

*Excellent Source of: Niacin (4.52mg), Phosphorus (248.4mg), Selenium (67.7mcg), Niacin (4.5mg), and Vitamin B12 (1.89mcg)

*Good Source of: Magnesium (75.6mg), Potassium (439mg), Thiamin (0.16mg), and Vitamin E (1.46IU)

When cooked (dry heat), Atlantic cod provides 0.1 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per 3 oz. (85g).

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The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.