Tuesday, June 18, 2019
The Culinary Cook Cooking Basics Types of Fish Species for Eating & Cooking

Types of Fish Species for Eating & Cooking


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Types of Fish Species for Cooking

different types of fish
Sushi is exquisite because it allows you to taste the fish. Salmon nigiri

There is so much to cover when it comes to the different types of fish species and names. It encompasses an entire ecosystem rather than a single animal. Much of what we’ll cover will touch on all the basic types of fish and seafood. We’ll touch on the properties they have and the preferred cooking methods. We will also go over the general rules of thumb. The different types of fish species listed here are the typical varieties available everywhere.
When dealing with fish types and seafood, it is important to know what kind of product we are dealing with. The term seafood can have different meanings to different people. When referring to seafood it may refer to shellfish, or shellfish and other edible marine creatures. Some may define seafood as food that comes from saltwater shellfish. Others define it as saltwater shellfish and fish.

Endangered Fish Species & Types

It is the responsibility of all aspiring cooks and chefs to be a part of the solution for the dwindling number of certain types of fish species. This means to try to source their product from ethical and renewable sources. Over-fishing from techniques such as trawling is destructive. Insist on knowing the source of your fish types and opt for sustainable options.

List of Endangered/Over-fished Species

different types of fish
Harvesting methods are to blame for dwindling fish populations

  1. Bluefin Tuna (overfished – Albacore OK)
  2. Red Snapper (overfished)
  3. Orange Roughy
  4. Beluga Sturgeon  (Beluga caviar)
  5. Chilean Seabass
  6. Clams (Dredged)
  7. Lingcod (Good from Alaska, overfished off West Coast)
  8. Monkfish
  9. Oysters (Dredged)
  10. Atlantic Salmon (Overfished)
  11. Scallops (Dredged)
  12. Sharks (overfished, slow growing)
  13. Swordfish (overfished)

Round Fish

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different types of fish
Chinook Salmon

We can divide the different types of fish species into 2 categories – Flatfish and Round fish types. From here, we can further break down this category to include fresh water and salt water. Then there are fatty fish types and lean fish types. In the culinary world, there are two types of fish that we categorize with. This is flatfish and round fish. We will also have fresh and salt water, fat and lean being attributes to the different types of fish.
Round fish are those that many are already familiar with. They are cylindrical in shape and have the characteristics we’ve grown to identify with. Some popular round fish:

Fish Names for Different Types of Round Fish Species:

  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Arctic char

    different types of fish
    Arctic char
  • Cod
  • Haddock
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Red Snapper
  • Salmon
  • Swordfish

    different types of fish
  • Tuna


The fattiness or leanness of the fish species is how we determine the proper cooking methods. Many round fish are fatty and lend themselves well to dry-heat cooking methods such as sauteing, baking, pan-frying, grilling. This is due to the ability to maintain their juiciness. Some fatty fish do not hold up well to deep-frying due to this species of fish having a tendency to become too soft. Lean fish are best prepared using moist-heat methods such as poaching or steaming. This is common in dishes like soups and chowders.
How do you determine what is a lean fish type and what is a fat type of fish to eat? Knowing the different types of fish requires experience in knowing the more common types. There is generally no rule in determining fatty and lean fish types. Knowing the difference does have a large impact on the cooking method. We’ll take the small popular group mentioned above to help you gain a basic understanding.

Fish Names of Different Types of Fish

different types of fish

Bass is usually referred to by much-unrelated fish. The better known freshwater types of fish include largemouth, smallmouth, redeye, and black. Bass are lean and delicate.
Catfish is a fatty scaleless freshwater fish that is common in lakes and rivers. We recommend purchasing farmed catfish as they have a tendency of tasting “muddy”. Prepare them using any cooking method, but they take well to frying.
Arctic char is a different type of salmon that we find in the far northern rivers. It is a lean fish and pink-fleshed. Wild char availability is limited to August, September, March, and April. They are available farm-raised.
Cod is the best-selling, most popular fish available. They are often used in fish sticks, pre-breaded portions, drawn and filleted. Cod is a lean type of fish. Scrod is a marketing term used for cod weighing less than 1.1kg (2-1/2 lbs)
Haddock is the second most commercially available type of fish. They are lean, with a strong flavor and a more delicate texture than Cod.

red snapper fish
Red Snapper

Herring are long silvery-blue fish found in northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They are a strongly flavored, fatty fish. Herring takes well to grilling or roasting but because they are soft they tend to spoil quickly.

Sardines are young, small herring which have a fatty, oily flesh with a flaky texture. You will know sardines due to their availability in canned form. They are great for sandwiches and salads.
Tilapia is the name given to many species of freshwater aqua-farmed fish bred. They are a lean fish with a firm texture. They are sometimes marketed as snapper despite not belonging to the snapper family. Be careful when selecting your snapper.
Trout is a common North American freshwater fish. They are related to salmon and are a fatty fish. Some common varieties include Rainbow Trout, Red Mountain Trout, and Brook Trout.
Red Snapper is a fish gaining popularity within the restaurant industry. The only true snapper is the red snapper. It has a lean, pink flesh and can take to almost any cooking method. The bones and head are excellent for fish stock.
Salmon is a very common round fish that is available both farmed and wild. They come from both freshwater rivers and salt water from the Pacific and Atlantic waters. There are many varieties of Salmon and the availability ranges by the time of year. They are fatty fish and the most popular in Canada. The different types include Chinook or King Salmon, Coho, Pink, Tyee, Chum, Spring, Sockeye, and Kokanee.
Swordfish are a very lean game fish with firm, meat-like texture. Swordfish are becoming endangered.
Tuna is another highly popular fish. It is a fatty fish with a firm texture and mild flavor. The different varieties of tuna include bluefin, yellowfin, bonito, albacore, and ahi.
There are hundreds of more fish that are available. Remembering which is fatty and which is lean will help you know exactly how to cook that particular fish. Cook using dry-heat methods for fatty fish. Moist-heat cooking methods are preferred for lean fish to help keep it moist and flavorful.

Flat Fish Types & Species

different types of fish
Halibut is a classic flatfish

There are only a few commercially available fish that can be categorized as being a flatfish. All different types of flatfish are lean and have a firm delicate texture. The different types of flatfish available are:

Fish Names for Different Types of Flat Fish

  • Flounder
  • Sole
  • Halibut
  • Turbot
Flounder has a lean firm flesh that is pearly white with a sweet mild flavor. We recommend poaching, steaming and frying this type of fish
Sole has many different types of fish/species associated with it. Flounder is sometimes marketed as Sole due to the popularity of Sole. They are a lean fish species and one of the most flavorful available. Any flatfish caught in North America and sold as Sole is actually flounder. There is English Sole (Flounder), Petrale Sole (Flounder), Dover Sole (Flounder), Lemon Sole (Flounder)
Halibut is the largest available flatfish species and is very popular due to its appealing texture, color, and a sweet, mild taste. It is a lean fish that absorbs flavor well and is best poached baked, grilled or broiled. It goes well with many sauces.
Turbot is a different type of fish that is a Pacific flatfish with no real culinary distinction. Turbot has a delicate flavor and firm lean flesh.

Shellfish Types

The Different Types of Mollusks

different types of fish

There are two categories of mollusks available – Univalve and bi-valve. Mollusks are sea creatures who have a hard outer shell that protects their soft interior. Mollusks can be prepared in a variety of ways, each of which has its benefits in flavor and texture.

Univalve mollusks are few in number and only include Abalone and Conch.

Bi-valve mollusks have a number of members, most of which you are already familiar with. These include:

  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Scallops


There are many varieties of each, and they all have a unique taste and flavor. Clams varieties include soft-shell clams, surf clams, geoducks, red river clam, and quahogs. Mussel varieties include blue mussels and green shell.

oyster shellfish type on platter
Oysters on the half shell

You will find oysters sold in the shell or shucked and are best eaten live but take well to steamed or baked in the shell. You can find a shucked oyster breaded and deep-fried, pan-fried and sauteed. They are commonly added to stews or chowders. The types of oysters include Atlantic Oyster, European flat oyster, Olympias, and Pacific oysters.
Scallops contain an edible white adductor muscle that holds both sides of the shell together. This is the part in which you buy while the rest of the scallop goes unused. They come in a variety of sizes and are great in stews, chowders. They are best fried but need care as overcooking can cause toughness and stringiness.


Cephalopods are park of the mollusk family that does not have an outer shell. The most popular of the cephalopods include:

  • Octopus
  • Squid

Octopus is generally very tough and requires mechanical tenderization or long, moist-heat cooking to render a palatable and tender product. You generally want to simmer an octopus for many hours and never boil. If octopus meat is boiled, it will turn out very tough. Once you have tenderized the octopus it can further prepared by grilling, frying or baking. It has white lean flesh and is flavorful

different types of fish
Grilled Octopus

Squid is the most popular cephalopod that many people have tried and enjoy. It is not as tough as octopus and can be prepared in a multitude of methods. Overcooking squid can cause the flesh to become rubbery and unappealing. Proper cooking, as with the scallop, is required to ensure a good product.


A crustacean is found in both fresh and salt water. They are defined by having a hard outer shell with jointed appendages that protects their sweet, tender meat. There are many types of crustaceans and each has its own qualities. They include:

  • Crayfish
  • Crabs
  • Lobsters
  • Shrimp & Prawns

A crayfish can be called crawfish or crawdad, but they all refer to the same species. They have an appearance of a miniature lobster and most of the meat is found in the tail. The flesh is sweet and lean. Crayfish can be simmered whole and served hot or cold. The tail meat can be used in deep frying, soups or pan fried. It is a staple in Cajun cuisine.

Crabs are found along North American cost lines in great numbers. There are a number of varieties of crab, each with their own flavor and texture. Their meat is highly versatile and can be used in soups, stews, curries, and casseroles to name a few. The crab should always be cooked live and you should not use dead crabs unless just recently killed. The varieties are as follows:

  • King Crab
  • Dungeness
  • Blue Crab
  • Snow/Spider Crab
  • Stone Crab

King crab is the most sought-after due to its very sweet and tender flavor. It is the largest crab and is caught in the cold water of the North Pacific. King Crabs are always sold frozen, usually in the shell.

Dungeness crab is the most popular variety found due to its delicate meat and sweet flavor, availability, and price. They are sold live or precooked.

different types of fish
King Crab Legs

We find The blue crab along the eastern seaboard and accounts for 50% of all crab harvested in the US. Their meat is sweet and rich and is available as soft-shell or hard-shell. Soft-shell crab is those harvested within 6 hours of molting. Crab are available from May 15 – September 15.
Snow crabs or spider crabs are an abundant species and are often substituted for the scarcer and more expensive King Crab. They get harvested in the northern North American waters. They get sold precooked and usually frozen.
Stone crabs are generally available as cooked flaws, even fresh or frozen. The meat is firm with a sweet flavor that is close to lobsters. They get served hot or cold with cocktail sauce, lemons, or butter sauces.
Lobsters have a brown-black outer shell and have firm white meat with a rich, sweet flavor. Lobster shells turn red when cooked and take well to poached, steamed, simmered, baked or grilled and served hot or cold. Lobsters should be alive until before cooking. Dead lobsters are not used. The coral (eggs) a prized delicacy.
You will find shrimp and prawns worldwide and are very popular. The difference between the terms shrimp and prawn is the location where it was caught. Freshwater prawns are referred to as prawns while marine species are referred to like shrimp.  In commercial practice, a prawn is considered to be a large variety of shrimp. There are dozens of varieties available and are often classified by size. They are highly versatile and can be prepared using a wide array of cooking methods.
This article should help you familiarize yourself with the vast amount of available fish and shellfish. The proper cooking methods used to produce a superior product.
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The Culinary Cook

Professional Chef & Blogger

With 15 years of experience working in restaurants, resorts, and a fully Red Seal Certified chef, The Culinary Cook shares tips, tricks, and recipes for everyone to enjoy.

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