Halibut is large, deep ocean flatfish that is well-known for its fine, firm and delicious flaky meat. Halibuts are bottom dwellers (demersal fish) live in very cold, deep Pacific from Alaska to California and Atlantic waters off the coast of Scotland, Norway, Iceland, and Newfoundland, migrating to shallow waters to spawn.
Halibut fish belongs to the genus; Hippoglossus, in the Pleuronectidae (flounders) family, also known as righteye flounders.
Common names: Giant halibut, righteye flounder, barn doors , etc.
|Atlantic halibut (H. hippoglossus).|
Halibuts are large, salt-water flatfish. They are side-swimmers. Adult halibut lives in deep water ocean bed of sands and gravel, and prays on small fish and crustaceans.
As the fish gradually grows into adulthood and adapts to the bottom-dwelling habitat (demersal), its body acquires asymmetrical body features. Its compressed body is olive or gray-brown on its right (upper) side and white on its left (under) side. Their large mouth is armed with sharp, curved teeth, and both eyes lying on the same side of the head in the adult fish; in most species, it is right-sided (right-eyed).
Two halibut species are:
Hippoglossus hippoglossus - Atlantic halibut, lives in the North Atlantic.
Hippoglossus stenolepis - Pacific halibut, lives in the North Pacific Ocean.
Atlantic halibut are larger and can grow to enormous size making them the largest of all the flatfish, normally measures 20-55 inches in length and weighs 11-55 lb.
Halibut fish is one of the finest sources of essential fatty acids, protein, minerals and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, E and D.
It is non-oily, deep water fish and therefore low in calories and saturated fats; 100 g holds just 91 cal in comparison to 160 cal in salmon.
Halibut contains lean, white meat that composes good amino-acids profile. 100g fish provides 18.56 g/100 g (33% of RDI). Protein composition is complete in the sense that all essential amino acids in a healthy proportions.
Halibut's lean meat is a good source of poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)Studies have shown that eating seafood can decreases the risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity and hypertension. Seafood is low in saturated fat and higher in “heart healthful” polyunsaturated fat, including omega-3 fatty acids.
US FDA categorises halibut in "good choice" section considering mercury levels in its flesh. The recommendation is consumption of 1 serving (4 ounces) per week for halibut.
Halibut is a moderate source of omega-3 eicosapentaenoicacid (EPA), docosapantaenoicacid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fatty acids. Research studies suggest that these fatty acids, particularly DHA, play an important role in the development of nervous system, especially in infants and children.
According to Cornell University and the New York Sea Grant Extension Program. 2012- the fatty acids play crucial role in decreasing blood pressure and heart rate and help improve cardiovascular function. For example, research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats) that can lead to sudden death.
In adults, several large trials have evaluated the effect of fish or fish oils on heart disease. In the "GISSI Prevention Trial, heart attack survivors who took a 1-gram capsule of omega-3 fats every day for three years were less likely to have a repeat heart attack, stroke, or die of sudden death than those who took a placebo".
Being deep water, non-oily fish, halibut contains small amounts of Vitamin-A (67 IU/100g). Nonetheless, it carries moderate amounts of omega-3 essential fatty acids such as ALA, DHA and DPA to help keep healthy mucosa and skin.
100 g of halibut fillet contains 6.513 mg (41% RDA) of niacin and 0.548 mg (42% RDA) of pyridoxine (B-6). It is also good source of vitamin-E, vitamin-B12, thiamin, and riboflavin.
Halibut fillet is naturally rich source of minerals including iodine, calcium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Iodine is an important trace element in human nutrition and is essential for thyroid hormone synthesis.
Halibut is a lean, white, firm, and flaky textured fish and contains very few bones. Fresh caught halibuts available from March to November. In the markets, large halibut are labeled as "barn doors," small ones as "chickens."
They sold year-round as whole frozen (small chicken), steaks, or fileted. Look for white, moist, and glossy flesh. Buy steaks that cut from the middle-third, rather than the thin tail-end where the proportion of bone to the flesh is very high. Also, steaks from the tail end are liable to dry-out quickly while cooking than the mid-portion steaks.
Avoid halibut fish with a strong amine odor. Always store fillets/sections in the deep freezer.
Halibut is a large, oceanic flatfish. In the markets, one can always find prepared halibut in large sections or fillets, sometimes with the skin on. If you prefer to skin, just peel it inside out. Remove any bones before cooking.
Halibut fish are much sought after for their very mild and sweet flavor and fine texture. Fresh fish almost translucent when raw, however, once cooked; it turns into attractive snow-white, tender, flaky, and delicious.
Since halibut is non-oily fish, poaching in white or red wine best suits its method of cooking. It can also be baked, grilled, or pan-roasted. Avoid preparation that might dry out the flesh.
Here are some serving ideas:
|Poached halibut. Photo credit: stu_spivack|
Cook halibut in simple, family style casserole dish in a classic French style "la bonne femme" with shallots, mushrooms and cheese.
Employ fresh fillets in a seafood stew with other complementing seafoods like clams, squids, shrimps shrimps and with vegetables, herbs and spices like onions, garlic, parsley, tomato, and white wine as delicious Italian stew (cioppino).
Steaks and fillets should be braised or baked with wine or stock to avoid drying.
Halibut's thin, transparent slices and delicate earthy flavor best suites in sashimi, and sushi.
It can also be enjoyed in chowder, mixed with vegetable like baby potatoes, sugar peas, and pea shoot tendrils. The halibut cooks just a few minutes in the flavorful broth.
Mushy halibut syndrome is a non-harmful condition found in some catches of halibut fish that may exhibit large areas of abnormally translucent and flaccid flesh. The entire musculature of fish is of inferior meat quality, having jellylike consistency.
Although it doesn't pose any known human health concerns, halibut thus caught in the wild are discarded for their aesthetically displeasing texture.
The mean mercury concentration in halibut fish is 0.241 ppm. Accordingly, the U.S FDA final guidelines on how much fish expectant as well as breastfeeding mothers can eat, along with lists of specific options that are safe or should be avoided, places halibut in a good choice category. By this yardstick, they can consume 1 serving (4 ounces) of halibut per week. (Medical disclaimer).
Also read <<-Salmon nutrition facts and health benefits.
Further reading (Links opens in new window):
Atlantic Halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) -Maine.gov. PDF.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution.