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Fish and Seafood Glossary
shrimp - swordfish
tilapia - turbot
weakfish - wolffish

How many varieties of shrimp exist? What do I look for when buying live Maine lobsters? What’s the best way to prepare fresh salmon?

In our seafood glossary, you’ll find helpful information about fish, shrimp, lobster, crab, and other seafood varieties; interesting facts about seafood; tips on how to buy; best preparation methods; and more. You’ll become a seafood expert in no time!


a.k.a.: Sea trout, spotted sea trout, speckled trout, squeteague, gray trout, corvina

Waters:Warmer Atlantic waters from Florida to the Carolinas (and, in summer, as far north as Massachusetts); Gulf coasts; some Pacific waters along North and South America.

Description (in water): This long, slender fish is a member of the drum family. Its color can range from gray to olive-green; most have greenish backs that fade to olive sides flecked with purple, blue, and gold tones. The average weakfish weighs under 5 lbs.

Description (in market): The white or pinkish-white meat is low in fat and fine in texture. The flavor is mild and sweet with edible skin.

Sold as: Whole, fillets

Best cooking: Fillets can be baked, pan-fried, broiled, or grilled (use a grill basket). Note that weakfish fillets, like flatfish fillets, flake easily when cooked, so handle with care. Whole fish are delicious roasted with fresh herbs.

Buying tips: Whole fish look similar to trout, so take care not to confuse the two. Fillets may be white or pinkish-white, but should be of uniform color and free of browning, gaping, and signs of drying. Its smell should be seawater fresh.

Substitutes: Catfish, cod, haddock, flatfish, ocean perch

Notes: Weakfish is named for the tender, delicate flesh around the mouth, which is easily torn when hooked.


a.k.a.: Silverside, sand lance, herring, smelt, and juvenile fish of a wide variety of species.

Waters:Atlantic and Pacific coasts

Description (in water): "Whitebait" is a general name for juvenile fish of various species and families (particularly the herring family). They are usually under 2 inches in length and have white, translucent, or silvery skin

Description (in market): These fish are generally eaten whole (head and viscera included). They have a rich, strong flavor, soft texture, and high fat content.

Sold as: Whole, in batches by the pound

Best cooking: It is best to flour-dredge these fish in batches, then briefly pan-fry or deep-fry; season with salt and serve with wedges of lemon.

Buying tips: These small fish are not easy to inspect. Try to find unbruised, well-iced specimens that smell fresh.

Substitutes: Sardine, anchovy

Notes: You're most likely to find whitebait in fish markets in the summertime, when they tend to run into estuaries where they can be harvested easily.


a.k.a.: Cod, hake, silver hake, kingfish, merlan

Waters:Atlantic and Pacific coasts, North and Mediterranean Seas, and shallow marine waters worldwide

Description (in water): These small fish range from 1 to 5 lbs. Most are gray or silver in color; some have blue or green backs that fade into pale, silvery sides and bellies.

Description (in market): The lean white flesh, which tends to flake when cooked, is tender in texture and has a mild, sweet flavor. The skin is edible.

Sold as: Whole, steaks, fillets (fresh or frozen); salted, smoked

Best cooking: Almost any style of cooking suits whiting. Whole fish are excellent baked in wine and fresh herbs; fillets and steaks can be broiled or pan-fried, or cut into chunks and added to stews or soups. The delicate meat steams and poaches nicely.

Whiting is relatively inexpensive, and could be a good choice fish for making soup stock.

Buying tips: Look for red gills and bright skin on whole fish. If the fish has been beheaded, check the edges for pure white, fresh-looking flesh. Fillets and steaks should glisten and smell of the sea.

Substitutes: Cod, croaker, flatfish, ocean perch, red snapper, tilefish

Notes: It may be difficult to find fillets of whiting, since the fish has a complicated bone structure that not all fishmongers know how to extract. However, once the fish has been cooked, the central Y-shaped backbone (to which the entire network of bones is attached) easily pulls away from the flesh.


a.k.a.: Ocean catfish, seacat

Waters:Northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

Description (in water): Most of these long, gray-blue or greenish fish weigh under ten pounds, but 30- and 40-lb. specimens have been caught. This is a ferocious-looking fish with long, sharp front teeth and a set of back teeth that's built for crushing tough-shelled prey like clams, crabs, and sea urchins.

Description (in market): The lean, pearly white flesh has a firm texture and a mild, sweet flavor. The s kin is edible.

Sold as: Whole, fillets

Best cooking: Wolffish is perhaps best cooked whole, lightly flour-dredged and sautéed. It can also be broiled, roasted, or grilled (use a grill basket). Fillets are delicious pan-fried.

Buying tips: Look for unmarred skin and red, alive-looking gills on whole fish. Fillets should be white and moist, with no browning, graying, or gaping. The fish should smell of seawater.

Substitutes: Blackfish, cod, dogfish, flatfish, ocean perch, pollock, red snapper, turbot