Buying & Storing
Wild Pacific halibut is harvested by Canada’s commercial fishing families providing top quality food.
Fresh wild Pacific halibut is available between March and November, and frozen halibut is available year round.
Fresh: March through November
Frozen: Year Round
Wild Pacific halibut is available as a whole fish that is head-off and gutted, but it is most often sold as fillets and steaks. Sometimes, chunks are available that you can cook whole, or cut down yourself into steaks, fillets or cubes. Halibut cheeks are also a popular delicacy prized for their sweet scallop-like taste and tender texture.
When buying fresh wild Pacific halibut, look for:
a clean, sea-fresh smell
firm, moist and translucent flesh with a shiny white sheen that looks almost wet
fish that is displayed on a layer of ice
When buying frozen wild Pacific halibut, look for:
the same translucent appearance as fresh halibut
When buying wild Pacific halibut, avoid fish that:
is sitting in a puddle of liquid
looks dull or has brown spots on the white flesh
has soft, gaping flesh
"Chalky” halibut is a condition leaving the flesh looking opaquely white, dull and a little mushy. While technically not spoiled, chalky halibut is considered lower quality as it is a condition that affects the texture and moisture content of the fish but not the flavour or nutritive content.
has ice crystals or frost inside the wrapping (frozen fish)
has dried, cottony patches which indicates freezer burn (frozen fish)
To store wild Pacific halibut and best maintain freshness, follow these tips.
Buy fresh halibut the day that you plan to eat it.
Remove fresh halibut from its store packaging, place into a tight-sealing container and refrigerate.
Store fresh halibut in the bottom or coldest part of your refrigerator.
Keep uncooked fish for no longer than one to two days in the fridge.
To best maintain the quality of your wild Pacific halibut, follow these tips and use any of the following freezing methods which keep the moisture in and the air out.
Whichever freezing method you choose, be sure to keep your halibut in the coldest part of your freezer – directly against the freezer floor and wall and furthest away from the freezer door or lid so that it receives the least amount of exposure to warmer air when the freezer is opened.
To protect against excess moisture loss during thawing, pre-treat halibut portions to increase the firmness of the fish. Combine 60 mL (¼ cup) of salt with 1 litre (4 cups) of cold water and dip the halibut into the mixture for about 20 seconds. Then follow the desired freezing method.
Keep uncooked fish for no longer than six months in the freezer.
Wet the halibut, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, wrap again with foil, and then freeze. If you are freezing a few portions, package steaks and fillets individually or layer them with waxed paper in between for easier separation after thawing.
Storing in Heavy Plastic, Self-Sealing Bag
Wet each fresh halibut portion, place in a heavy plastic, self-sealing bag and seal with all air removed. You will prevent freezer burn by making sure the bag is air-tight so push or suck all the air out before sealing the bag and then place in the freezer.
Freeze the halibut as quickly as possible by placing the fish portions (i.e., steaks, fillets) on a cookie sheet, cover with wax paper or foil, and place in freezer. When fish is solidly frozen, quickly dip each portion into a container of ice-cold water so that it is completely covered. An ice-coating will automatically form. Place the portions back in the freezer uncovered for another 10 to 20 minutes. Repeat dipping and freezing procedure about five or six times until a glaze, about ½ cm (1/4 inch) thick, has formed. Wrap the halibut portions in heavy plastic, freezer wrap, or seal in a heavy plastic, self-sealing bag and place in the freezer.
When ready to use your halibut, you can thaw it in a couple of ways:
To thaw slowly, unwrap the halibut, place it in a pan, cover and leave for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
To thaw more quickly, defrost the fish in the microwave allowing two to five minutes per 500 grams (1 lb), followed by equal standing time in between zaps.