What Does Rockfish Taste Like?

Growing up in my household meant that you had to develop a taste for fish-mainly catfish and bass.  My dad loved to fish. Often, to make ends meet, we would have fish twice a week that he had caught, skinned, and prepared himself.

As he grew older, my dad didn’t fish as much as he once did. So, my mother started purchasing our fish in the grocery store-mainly perch or cod.  She always said that she preferred these two types of fish because they didn’t have a “fishy” odor about them.

Little did my mother, or any of us, know at that time, that we were eating two varieties of what ‘rockfish’.  If she were alive today, I figure she would still enjoy her perch and cod and find it amusing that people referred to it as rockfish.

So what exactly is rockfish? What does it taste like? Keep reading to find out!

What is Rockfish?

The term rockfish is commonly used to describe several species of saltwater fish.  The fish called by this name are not directly related in any manner. Rather, they all have an innate tendency to hide among rocks.  As it turns out, the use of the term rockfish is usually pretty much arbitrary.

There are over seventy species of fish used as a source of food are referred to as rockfish.  Some of the more widely known species are striped bass, groupers, cod, Alaskan whitefish, and Pacific Red Snapper, to name a few.

Although rockfish do vary, and their individual taste may vary slightly from one another, they all share the same characteristics. They’re lean, firm, and have a mild flavor.

Varieties Of Rockfish

There are seventy species of rockfish in the Pacific Ocean, spanning from the Bering Sea in Alaska all along the Pacific Coast to Baja California.  Out of those seventy, only twelve are currently being commercially fished for and sold.

Although the varieties of fish are referred to under the name of rockfish, their differences lay primarily in their color and texture. 

These differences lead to their variety being referred to as either black rockfish or red rockfish.

What Does Rockfish Taste Like?

Rockfish is a mild-tasting fish that offers a bit of nuttiness while also being slightly sweet. 

They have a clean, pleasant finish due to its lower oil content, lending it not only a lighter taste but also a lighter texture.  Rockfish is known to wholeheartedly take on the flavors that are used for cooking it. However, it’s also hearty enough to stand on its own if needed.

Rockfish is the perfect choice when you have a fish recipe that doesn’t call for a specific type of fish.  This is again due to its texture and ability to adapt to any flavor profile. 

As for the taste, rockfish has been compared to varieties such as striped bass, sea bass, and perch.

What’s the Texture of Rockfish Like?

The meat of the rockfish is delicate and lean. It has a medium to firm texture. When pressed with the finger, it will bounce back and have a medium-sized flake.

Those rockfish that have been deep skinned, having had the fat line removed, will provide the most delicate flavor.

The skin of the rockfish should appear both shiny and bright.

What Does Rockfish Smell Like?

Fresh rockfish should smell fresh when sniffed, with a sweet and salty aroma, and not one of being yeasty, musty, fishy, or even bitter.  You will pretty much be able to tell upon initial sniff if your rockfish is bad or not.  

Other areas to look at that indicate a fresh fish include, in fillets, the edges should appear moist with no visible discoloration on the white inner side of the fillet.  In contrast, the side closer to the skin should present a bright pink color highlighted with silver.  Fresh fillets of rockfish should have a smell similar to the sea.

When determining the freshness in a whole fish, a few things to remember are:

  • The skin should appear brightly colored with the scales attached firmly.
  • The flesh should bounce back in resilience when pressed upon by a finger.
  • The fish should smell clean and salty, not in any manner “fishy.”
  • The eyes should be clear and not have any cloudy appearance to them.

What Tastes Similar to Rockfish?

Because so many varieties of fish are classified as rockfish, most all of them will taste somewhat similar. 

They are also interchangeable when needed and are great for when a substitute for a white fish is required in a recipe.  This ability for substitution is because rockfish have the same firm medium texture to them.

Because of its similar flavor and texture, rockfish can be substituted for red snapper (note that this is not the same as Pacific Red Snapper – a rockfish), sea bass, ocean perch, sea bass, and cod, to name a few.

Is Rockfish Good for You?

One of the primary benefits of rockfish, besides its versatility, is its densely packed profile for nutrition as sourced by the USDA.  In the typical 100 gram serving of most varieties of rockfish, you will find:  calories 94, fat calories 14, total fat 1.6g, saturated fat 0.4g, cholesterol 35mg, sodium 60mg, protein 18.8g, and Omega-3 0.4g.

Rockfish is also a superb source of both potassium and Vitamin D, which means that it not only tastes good but offers a variety of health benefits as well. 

In addition to their excellent nutritional content, rockfish are known to aid in lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.

How to Serve Rockfish

Because rockfish is such a mild fish, one would be correct in stating it is a blank slate when choosing how to prepare it.  The options for preparation are unlimited, with the versatile fish being great baked, pan-fried, baked, or sauteed.  

Rockfish is also an excellent choice for deep frying, such as when used in the currently famous dish fish tacos. 

The only manner of preparation that is typically ill-advised is grilling it unless you choose to cook it whole.  Due to the flakiness of its flesh, it may be more of a headache and a mess than need be.

If you do find you would like to prepare a whole rockfish, other than grilling it, you have the option to fry it in oil until it is crisp, or you can steam it. 

When choosing to oil fry the rockfish, you will enjoy the firmness of the flesh, while steaming will offer hidden highlights of its delicate flavor.

After an easy rockfish recipe? I recommend trying this one from Cooking on the Weekends.