Halibut: The Cookbook


Favorite recipes for a popular fish.

Halibut has become increasingly popular in fish stores and supermarkets nationwide. The firm, succulent flesh of halibut is low in fat and well suited for all cooking methods. This collection includes 120 recipes traditional favorites along with 40 new ones from award-winning author and chef Karen Barnaby, one of North America's leading seafood chefs.

Halibut: The Cookbook surveys the culinary and natural ...

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Favorite recipes for a popular fish.

Halibut has become increasingly popular in fish stores and supermarkets nationwide. The firm, succulent flesh of halibut is low in fat and well suited for all cooking methods. This collection includes 120 recipes traditional favorites along with 40 new ones from award-winning author and chef Karen Barnaby, one of North America's leading seafood chefs.

Halibut: The Cookbook surveys the culinary and natural history of the fish, and provides tips on how to choose the freshest catch at the store. Conveniently organized by meal course, Halibut includes marinades, curing instructions and different cooking methods. The recipes are easy to follow, ranging from simple dishes to elaborate meals.

Here are samples of the 120 recipes:

  • Grilled halibut steaks with pink peppercorn chive butter
  • Baked halibut tapenade crust and caponata
  • Riesling braised halibut with tarragon and chives
  • Alaskan halibut chowder.

Comprehensive and clearly written, Halibut: The Cookbook will be welcomed by home chefs who have long enjoyed this popular fish, as well as those just adding it to their list of favorites.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781552858608
  • Publisher: Whitecap Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 1/1/2010
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Barnaby is the executive chef at The Fish House in Vancouver, British Columbia. A columnist for the Vancouver Sun, she is also the author of several cookbooks. She has won a Cuisine Canada award, two Gourmand Cookbook awards and the British Columbia Restaurant Hall of Fame "Back of the House" Award.

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Table of Contents



Gently Simmered, Poached and Steamed

Pan Roasting, Sautéing and Frying

In the Oven


Simple Marinades and Sauces


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Halibut is all about elegant texture, appearance, and sweet, subtle flavor. I love to tease a fillet apart into large, silky flakes. And simple is best. My favorite way to eat it is with lemon butter and a sprinkling of chives. I keep it away from the grill because it takes away some of its purity. But my feelings for halibut weren't always like this.

I grew up on rectangular, frozen fish. Every Friday morning the blue High Liner box was left on the counter to thaw. Before dinner, the fillets were placed in a glass baking dish and baked. Haddock, cod, or sole looked the same, was cooked the same, and tasted the same -- "same" meaning white, overcooked, and bland. I reached for the ketchup bottle every time the plate of dry white fish appeared before me. We did have the occasional fish stick dinner, which was much better. We had no salmon, except for canned -- and certainly no halibut.

I discovered halibut when I moved to Toronto, barely giving it a nod. My focus was on monkfish, tuna, squid, and whole small bony fish like red snapper, mackerel, and mullet. All things Italian had burst onto the food scene, and whole fish were the "it" fish, sizzling off the grill with fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil. Grilled squid and firm medallions of monkfish appeared in almost every menu. Everything safe to eat raw -- there were some dubious things -- was made into carpaccio.

Halibut gently nudged me when I moved to Vancouver, but it still didn't stir my heart. I barely gave it a chance and thought it was a bland fish for people who don't like fish. I was enamored with sablefish and skate. Sablefish was the bad boy who rodethe Harley. Skate was edgy. If skate were human, it would have tattoos and multiple body piercings. Halibut was a sissy -- too pristine to get my attention. Though I wasn't crazy about halibut fillets, I did love the cheeks. They had what I thought was at least a shred of character.

As fate would have it -- cooking thousands of pounds of it did help -- I slowly learned to love halibut's simplicity. It didn't have to be bad to be good.


What to Look For

When choosing halibut, look for firm, translucent flesh. Halibut shouldn't smell fishy but have a mild briny scent. Avoid halibut with a chalky appearance. The flesh will be soft and stringy after it's cooked.

It's rare to find whole halibut for sale. Instead, we have easy-to-deal-with steaks and fillets. Halibut fillets can be cut cleanly from the bone with a sharp boning knife.

How to Store It

Store halibut (or any fish) on ice, refrigerated. Make sure that it's well wrapped and sitting on top of the ice. Use a deep container and change the ice as it melts.

Halibut's season is almost nine months, so I prefer to use it fresh. The short time that it isn't available makes the heart grow fonder. If you choose frozen halibut, let it thaw completely in the fridge before cooking it.

Freezing fresh halibut at home isn't recommended. The low temperature of a home freezer -- as opposed to a commercial freezer -- causes the fish to freeze slowly, creating ruptured cells. When the fish thaws, it releases more liquid because of the ruptured cells. The halibut will be dry, its texture compromised.

How to Cook It

Halibut is a lean fish and not as forgiving as fattier fish such as salmon or sablefish, so timing is crucial. There are no rules for cooking time. It depends on the thickness of the fish, cooking method, and your utensils. The fillet should look moist and should feel firm but slightly springy to the touch. It's okay to check if it's done to your liking by piercing the center. A meat thermometer should show an internal temperature between 140° to 145°F (60° to 63°C).

Grilling works well for thin fillets or steaks. Place the fish on a greased grill. Lightly flouring then oiling the fish will prevent it from sticking. You can also baste the fish with a marinade as it grills, and turn the fish once, halfway through cooking. Available in gourmet cookware shops, fish baskets make it easy to turn the fish over on the grill.

Broiling is a good choice for thick fillets. Place the fillets in a single layer on a well-oiled pan about 4 inches from the heat. Season the fish with salt, pepper, and herbs, if you wish, and baste it during cooking with a flavorful liquid or fat. Olive oil, butter, white wine, or lemon juice will enhance the flavor. Turn once, halfway through cooking.

Baking is good for small steaks and fillets. Arrange the fish in a well-oiled dish and drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil or butter, white wine, and/or broth and a sprinkling of herbs, salt, and pepper. Cook in a preheated 400°F (200°C) oven for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness.

Sautéing is ideal for thin fillets. If you prefer, you can lightly flour the fish. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs if desired. Heat oil or clarified butter over medium heat in a heavy frying pan. Turn once, halfway through cooking.

Pan roasting makes a nice crispy crust on halibut and looks appealing. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Then heat 1/4 inch (6 mm) of oil or clarified butter in a heavy frying pan over high heat. (It doesn't have to be a non-stick pan, just non-sticky.) Season the fillets and place in the pan. Turn the heat to medium and watch for a golden brown crust to develop around the edges. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness. Remove the pan from the oven and serve the fish crispy side up.

Poaching works for steaks and fillets. Cook them in a simmering liquid -- fish broth, vegetable broth, wine, or a combination of wine and water. Poached fish is often served cold or at room temperature with cold sauce, such as herbed mayonnaise, yogurt, sour cream, or a vinaigrette.

Steaming is a great choice for halibut fillets. I prefer using a large, tiered Asian-style aluminum steamer. Use only an inch or two of water for steaming and bring to a full boil. Place the fillets on a plate and season heavily because the flavors will be diluted with water. Asian flavors work well here; fermented black beans, ginger, sake, sesame oil, soy sauce, and green onions are all good choices. Cooking will take around 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. Remove from the steamer and serve immediately.

Flavors for Halibut

Halibut's neutral flavor makes it an ideal fish for many different seasonings. Basil, tarragon, mint, lemon grass, thyme, and oregano all enhance halibut. If you use fresh basil, add it after cooking to preserve its flavor. Spices such as cumin, fennel, coriander seeds, chilies, and curry powder work well too.

Halibut can be seasoned with herbs and spices before cooking, but don't let halibut sit in any form of acid for longer than 1 hour before cooking. The acid "cooks" the flesh and will make the halibut tough.

Right before cooking, you can add a splash of wine, lemon juice, clam nectar, or olive oil.

After cooking, a sprinkling of lemon juice or flavored vinegars and oils will add another dimension of taste. And butter seems to be a natural with halibut.


Halibut is an excellent protein source as well as a good source of potassium and omega-3 fatty acids.

Serving Size 4 oz (100 g)

Total Fat 3.33 g

  • Saturated Fat 0.473 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 1.07 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 1.1 g
  • Cholesterol 46.47 mg
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids 0.62 g

Total Carbohydrate 0 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Protein 30.25 g
Sodium 78.2 mg
Potassium 652.8 mg

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