Cod is Britain’s favourite fish and probably the best-known caught in UK waters. Britons consume about one third of all cod eaten with around 85% of cod caught in Europe being destined for British plates.
The mild-flavoured, succulent, white, flaky fish is most commonly associated in Britain with the classic dish of fish and chips, which is one of the most popular cod fillet recipes, but cod can be enjoyed in a variety of different ways with different cod loin recipes, black cod recipes and baked cod recipes.
Cod has been a firm favourite for hundreds of years in the UK. It was once considered an inferior fish due to the fact that for many years it was plentiful, cheap and very often overcooked. Today however, the popularity and overfishing of the species has caused a dramatic decline in numbers of Atlantic cod, now listed as a vulnerable species. There are 3 species of cod: Atlantic, Pacific and Greenland. The salt-water fish inhabit the cold waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, common in the seas of North America, Iceland, the North Sea, and the British coast. The largest and most stable cod populations are in the Icelandic and northeast Arctic seas. While cod is common on the British Isles’ coastline, the colder water in Scotland is more heavily populated by the fish.
As one of the most popular fish in Europe and North America, cod is commercially important. While there is no fixed season for catching cod, the fish is at its best during its spawning season which is four months long, January to April. The fish can be found in coastal waters in depths of 500 to 600 metres as well as populating the open ocean. As they live in deeper waters, they are often caught by trawling. Trawls, sometimes known as dredges, are nets which can range from being reasonably small for recreational fishing, to huge football pitch sizes for commercial fishing. These nets can be towed at various depths, either being dragged along the ocean floor, or halfway down from the surface of the water. A concern of this type of fishing is that bottom dredging has been found to cause damage to the ocean floor. Cod in the Pacific Ocean is in abundance, fishing techniques tested to catch them include traps and hooks and lines, which are less damaging than trawling.
When buying a cod whole, the fish should have a shiny clear skin and clear eyes, the fins should be intact and the gills should be bright red. It is often sold frozen but is also widely available fresh, its flesh should be a good pearly white colour, firm to touch and shouldn’t have a strong fishy smell. Cod can be served raw or partially cooked, baked, fried, poached, battered, filleted, or put in a pie. Jamaica’s national dish of ackee and salt fish, commonly used cod, as does the Scandinavian lutefisk.
The cod fillet is delicate but is delicious cooked in a number of ways. One of the most popular cod fillet recipes is the traditional battered cod with chips. The loin of the cod is the middle third of the fillet, usually the fattest part and considering the prime cut of the fish as it is the most succulent and flaky. For a flaky white fish, the dense flesh is reasonably secure, cod loin recipes often suggest pan-frying, confitting, poaching, and steaming. Grilling should be done cautiously, placing the fish skin down as the fish can break up. To accompany the delicate flavour of the fish, herbs such as dill, parsley and tarragon can work wonderfully well, as well as a squeeze of lemon to bring out the flavours.