Halibuts are the largest of the flatfishes of great commercial importance. They are dark brown on the top side, and off white on the underside, with small scales, invisible to the eyes. They have two eyes on the right side.
There are two species, the N. Atlantic halibut. Hippoglossus hippogossus and the Pacific halibut, H. stenolepsis. The N. Atlantic halibut has been known to reach a length of 2.5m (8’) and weigh over 300kg (650Ib). It ranges from the cold waters of the Arctic, down to New Jersey and Scotland.The Pacific halibut is slightly smaller and ranges from C. California through to Alaska to N. Asian waters.
The halibut flesh is firm, white and meaty, with a delicious flavour and a low fat content. The fish is available in steaks, fillets and cutlets. Halibut steak is cut nearest to the tail, and the fillet, also called fletch, is cut from the main body. The fillets are large and one halibut yields four large fletches.
The fletches or large fillets are usually cut into individual portions for retail sale, and range from 125g (4oz) to 250g (½ Ib) or more. The portions are 2½ inches thick or more and take longer to cook than most fish fillets. Fillets are better pan-seared, poached or baked.
The steaks are skin on with a median section of the backbone, are ¾ to 1-inch thick and range from 180g (6oz) to 500g (1Ib). Steaks can be grilled because they are held together with the bones and skin. Once cooked, the skin can be eaten or discarded. It’s a matter of personal choice.
A roundish, boneless cut from the head area is called halibut cheeks. It’s tender, succulent, mild flavoured and hard to come by. It’s size depends on the size of the fish. The cheeks are excellent for sautéing, or battering and deep-frying.
Halibut is good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin (B3), vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, folic acid, potassium and selenium.
Regular consumption of halibut lowers cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, and is extremely beneficial in lowering homocysteine levels in the body. Halibut is also good for improving blood flow and distribution of nutrients to the entire body.
The Atlantic halibut is reported to be almost depleted through overfishing. Farmed halibut is a great sustainable option.
Other species, sometimes called halibut, include Roundnose flounder (Shotted halibut), Greenland turbot (Greenland halibut), California flounder (California halibut) and Black pomfet (Australian halibut).