Whether you’re new to cooking fish or can’t tell a fillet of cod from one of tilapia, it’s easy to feel flustered by seafood. Fortunately, prepping white fish requires little skill in the kitchen: Common varieties cook quickly and can take on all kinds of different flavors. To help you cook more of it, we’ve decoded three popular species—cod, tilapia, and skate—that all have mild flavors and can be used interchangeably, so you can eliminate the guesswork for good.
This lean saltwater fish, a good source of omega-3s, has a delicate texture with a slightly sweet flavor, making it an easy sell for people who prefer to avoid “fishy” seafood. And if you’re concerned about sustainability, just try to avoid Atlantic cod, which has been overfished.
When to use: You can use cod as a substitute for pollock or sole; it’s also an affordable alternative to halibut.
How to cook: In the supermarket, you’ll find cod fillets, which can easily be prepared by sautéing, broiling, pan-frying, or baking. No matter the method, cod is finished cooking when it flakes easily with a fork and is opaque. Use cod for fish tacos (try your hand at grilled ones) or bake it in white wine, lemon juice, and garlic. Enjoy this versatile fish and order Plated’s Sicilian-Style Cod with Parsley Garlic Potatoes—on our menu right now!
Now the fourth most popular seafood in the U.S., tilapia is a farm-raised fish with a slightly firmer texture than cod. Tilapia can actually be one of your best sustainable seafood options when farmed in the U.S., Canada, and Ecuador.
When to use: Tilapia can stand in for any flaky white fish.
How to cook: You’ll find skinless, boneless fillets in the grocery store, which are versatile to prepare by sautéing, broiling, pan-frying, or baking. Like cod, tilapia is finished cooking when it flakes easily with a fork and is opaque. Try tilapia sautéed with a mixture of curry paste, ginger, garlic, and lime juice or rub a fillet with spices like paprika and cumin and sear over high heat to serve it “blackened.” Our Tilapia Piccata with Tomato Parsley Orzo recipe prepares the fish in a classic Italian fashion, dredging it in flour before cooking until flaky.
You might be less familiar with this species of fish, which has become increasingly popular among chefs for its sweet flavor and affordability. Skate does suffer from a bit of an image problem though: While sometimes marketed as “imitation scallops,” skate more closely resembles a stingray, with a flat body, fan-shaped wings (the edible part), and a long tail.
When to use: The thin wings cook more quickly than cod or tilapia, so while you can swap them in recipes, make sure to reduce the amount of cooking time.
How to cook: It’s common to find boneless, skinless skate wings at the supermarket fish counter; their shape and ribbed texture make them easy to spot. It’s best to cook the wings quickly over high heat by searing or pan-frying after dredging in panko breadcrumbs, similar to our Skate Wing Schnitzel, Caramelized Vegetables, and Purple Potato Chips, currently on our menu.
You can also broil skate for a few minutes with olive oil, fresh thyme sprigs, and halved cherry tomatoes. In our Seared Skate Wings with Papas Bravas and Paprika Aioli recipe, we season the fish before searing it in butter and olive oil.