6+ Key Differences Between Atlantic Cod and Black Cod

Differences between Atlantic and Black Cod: Learn about species, habitat, appearance, flavor, culinary uses, and sustainability of these popular fish.

atlantic cod vs black cod 6+ Key Differences Between Atlantic Cod and Black Cod

Are you a seafood lover trying to decide between Atlantic and black cod? Well, you’ve come to the right place. While both are popular fish choices, there are a few key differences you should know about before making your decision.

In this article, we’ll explore the main differences, so you can choose the one that suits your taste buds best. I’ll also provide some interesting facts and information to help you distinguish one from the other. 

By the end of this article, you’ll better understand each fish’s unique characteristics. That way, you can make informed choices regarding cooking and enjoying them. Let’s dive in!

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Species and Scientific Names

Every species of fish has its own scientific name, and black cod and Atlantic cod are no exception. The world of taxonomy gives an extra layer of knowledge when distinguishing between these two distinct fish species.

Black cod, also called sablefish or butterfish, is scientifically classified as Anoplopoma fimbria. The scientific name Anoplopoma is derived from Greek roots. “Ana” means “up,” “oplon” means “shield,” and “poma” means “cover.” It belongs to the Anoplopomatidae family, which comprises only one other species called the skilfish (Erilepis zonifer).

On the other hand, the Atlantic cod goes by the scientific name Gadus morhua. A word that translates to “codfish,” emphasizing its association with the cod family. The genus name Gadus originates in the Greek word for fish, while the species name morhua is derived from the Latin word for cod.

Habitat and Distribution

When it comes to habitat and distribution, black cod and Atlantic cod have their own preferred corners of the ocean. Black cod is primarily found in the North Pacific Ocean. It is commonly found along the coasts of Alaska and Japan. 

These fish prefer deep-water environments and are often found in areas with rocky bottoms or near submarine canyons. The colder temperatures and rich food sources in these regions contribute to developing their unique flavor and texture.

Atlantic cod is well adapted to the colder waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. This species can be found in coastal areas stretching from North America, including regions like the coastal areas of Canada and the United States, to Europe and Greenland.

Atlantic cod prefers a range of habitats, from rocky shores and sandy bottoms to deeper offshore areas. Its ability to thrive in various environments has made it an important commercial fish species in these regions.

Appearance and Physical Characteristics

The appearance and physical characteristics of black and Atlantic cod set them apart. Recognizing these distinct features allows you to identify each species easily and appreciate their unique visual attributes.

Black cod boasts a unique and striking appearance. It showcases an elongated body that is sleek and streamlined, enabling it to navigate through the depths of the ocean with ease. The skin of sablefish is typically dark in color, ranging from black to dark gray, which adds to its allure.

Additionally, the black cod exhibits a lighter gray underside and is characterized by two distinct dorsal fins that are well-spaced apart. This feature makes it easily distinguishable from the skilfish, which possesses two dorsal fins in close proximity to each other. 

Sablefish have been documented to grow up to 114 cm in length and have an average weight of 3.7 kg.

The Atlantic cod exhibits a more classic cod-like appearance. It can be identified by a unique elongated hairlike appendage known as a “barbel” that hangs from the chin. 

The skin showcases a brownish-greenish hue on the back and sides, but the belly is predominantly white, creating a distinctive contrast. They also possess three dorsal fins, two anal fins, and tails resembling brooms in shape.

Flavor and Texture

sablefish (black cod) fillet isolated on white background

Now to the realm of flavor and texture, where black cod and Atlantic cod showcase their distinct culinary qualities. Black cod is renowned for its exquisite flavor profile. It offers a rich, buttery taste, often described as luxurious and indulgent. The flesh of black cod is moist and oily, contributing to its luscious texture and mouthfeel.

When cooked, it retains its moisture exceptionally well, resulting in a tender and silky texture that melts in your mouth. The high oil content in black cod gives it a succulent quality that seafood enthusiasts find incredibly appealing.

Some pieces of a natural and appetizing salted or salted cod cut into strips

On the other hand, Atlantic cod presents a milder flavor compared to black cod. It offers a delicate, slightly sweet taste, often described as clean and fresh. The texture of Atlantic cod is firmer and leaner, with a flaky consistency that holds together well. Although it is less oily than black cod, Atlantic cod offers a satisfying bite and a pleasant mouthfeel.

Culinary Uses

Black cod holds a special place in the world of gourmet seafood. Its exceptional flavor and texture make it a highly sought-after choice in high-end seafood restaurants. It shines in dishes that highlight its natural richness and buttery qualities. 

Sablefish can be prepared in various ways, such as grilling, broiling, or baking, allowing its flavors to develop and its delicate flesh to become tender and succulent. Its velvety texture makes it an excellent candidate for sushi and sashimi preparations, offering a luxurious melt-in-your-mouth experience.

Atlantic cod plays a more versatile role in culinary traditions. It has earned its place as a staple ingredient in numerous classic dishes. The fish is widely used in the ever-popular fish and chips, where its firm texture holds up well to deep frying, resulting in a satisfyingly crisp exterior. It also shines in fish stews and chowders, whose mild flavor complements their hearty and comforting nature. 

Sustainability and Fishing Practices

When it comes to sustainability and fishing practices, there are some notable differences. While showing signs of overfishing, the sablefish population is currently considered relatively stable. This means that there are no immediate concerns regarding its sustainability.

On the other hand, Atlantic cod populations have faced significant challenges due to overfishing. As a result, fishing restrictions have been implemented to allow the stocks to recover.

Unfortunately, despite these efforts, certain populations, such as the one near Newfoundland, Canada, face a dire situation. A recent study predicts that this particular population may essentially go extinct within the next 20 years, despite the best attempts to manage it.

More FAQs

Is Atlantic cod the same as black cod?

Atlantic cod and black cod are not the same. Despite their similar names, they differ in appearance, flavor, and sourcing. The black cod is actually a distinct species and not a type of cod. This can lead to confusion due to its misleading nickname.

Is black cod good to eat?

Black cod is indeed good to eat as it is a valuable source of high-quality protein and provides important minerals such as iodine, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, and calcium. Additionally, the fats in black cod are highly polyunsaturated, making it suitable for low cholesterol diets and rich in heart-healthy Omega-3’s.

What is the common name for Atlantic cod?

The common name for Atlantic cod is cod or codling, commercially known as cod or codling.

What is the common name for black cod?

The common name for black cod is often used to refer to sablefish, even though they are not actually part of the cod family.

What fish tastes like black cod?

The fish that tastes like black cod is Chilean sea bass. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that Chilean sea bass has become the sustainable choice, rather than the other way around. The sea bass has a slightly sweeter flavor compared to black cod. Both fish are great for marinating in miso and have a delicate, flaky texture, although they are not as firm as cod.

What fish is similar to Atlantic cod?

The fish that is similar to Atlantic cod includes Pacific Cod, Haddock, Atlantic Pollock, and Silver Hake.

Why is black cod more expensive?

Black cod is more expensive due to its high oil content, making it one of the most valuable commercially caught fish in Alaska. The strong Asian market, particularly in Japan, contributes to its high price. Additionally, the domestic market for black cod mainly consists of high-end restaurants on the west coast. Interestingly, Japanese buyers grade black cod based on its depth, which adds to its unique pricing factors.

Does black cod taste like regular cod?

Black cod does not taste like regular cod. While both types of fish have a mild flavor like most white fish, black cod has a distinct velvety texture and buttery flavor due to its white and fatty meat. On the other hand, regular cod has a white and flaky meat that is firmer and leaner in comparison. Therefore, although they are both white fish, black cod and regular cod have different taste profiles.

Is black cod a good fish to eat?

Black cod is a good fish to eat because its fats are highly polyunsaturated, making it suitable for low cholesterol diets and rich in heart-healthy Omega-3’s. Additionally, it has a similar amount of omega-3 as salmon and relatively low levels of mercury and PCBs considering its size and lifespan.

Is black cod high in mercury?

Black cod and swordfish should be avoided by pregnant women, women planning pregnancy, and young children due to the risk of excessive intake of mercury, which can affect the developing nervous system.

How much is black cod worth per pound?

The black cod is worth $26.00 per pound on average, and it is available in fillet form with an average weight of 1 pound.

Does black cod have a lot of bones?

Black cod does have a significant amount of bones, which can be extremely challenging to remove using the usual tweezer method. I became aware of this issue when I initially prepared it for a dinner party some time ago.

Can I substitute black cod for cod?

When considering substituting black cod for regular cod, it is important to note that they have distinct differences in texture, taste, and cooking methods. Therefore, substituting one for the other may not always yield desirable results, particularly if the recipe depends on the specific characteristics of black cod.

What is the closest thing to black cod?

The closest equivalent to black cod is Chilean sea bass, which is readily available.

What is the best wild caught cod?

The best wild-caught cod is Wild-caught Alaska Cod, which is a mild white fish with a slightly sweet flavor and firm, flaky flesh. It is widely recognized as the main ingredient in the popular fish and chips dish. Additionally, this type of cod is low in fat and rich in protein. It is also referred to as Pacific Cod, Alaska Cod, and True Cod.

Can I use cod instead of black cod?

You cannot use cod instead of black cod.

What does Atlantic cod taste like?

Atlantic cod has a mild, sweet, and delicate flavor profile. Its flesh is firm, moist, and flaky, making it suitable for different cooking techniques. The taste of cod is not overly fishy, which makes it a preferred choice for individuals who are not fond of strong seafood flavors.

What is the most common type of cod?

The most common type of cod is the Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), which can be found in the colder waters and deeper sea regions of the North Atlantic. Additionally, the Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) is also a common species, inhabiting both the eastern and western regions of the northern Pacific.

Is black cod better than cod?

Black cod is not necessarily better than cod, but it does have its own unique qualities. Black cod has white and fatty meat that is known for its velvety texture and buttery flavor. On the other hand, cod meat is white and flaky, but it is firmer and leaner compared to black cod. Cod also has a fair amount of moisture and a mild taste. The advantage of both fish is that they are abundant in their habitat, making it easy to catch them whenever desired.

Is black cod healthy to eat?

Black cod is a healthy option to include in your diet due to its high content of heart-healthy Omega-3’s and low cholesterol fats. With almost the same amount of omega-3 as salmon, it is suitable for low cholesterol diets. Additionally, considering its size and lifespan, black cod has relatively low levels of mercury and PCBs.

Does black cod have a fishy taste?

Black cod does not have a fishy taste, making it a great choice for diners who typically do not enjoy seafood due to its fatty texture.

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