Sablefish is the queen of the sea! Its higher oil content makes it very buttery and difficult to overcook—perfect for grilling! For an added layer of insurance, I like to brine the Sablefish before grilling. This optional and unique step isn’t often used for fish, but should be. Just 15 to 30 minutes in the saltwater brine seasons the fish and helps retain moisture during cooking. Pair the Grilled Sablefish with a showstopping blackberry relish and a simple ribboned squash salad. 

If you’re new to Sablefish, or black cod, rest assured it’s an easy fish to cook. I’ve been cooking fish weekly for years and Sablefish is by far the easiest fish to cook. The high fat content makes it very hard to overcook and perfect for high-heat cooking like grilling, pan-searing and broiling. 

And if that all isn’t reason enough to love sablefish, it has the highest omega-3 content of all fish—yes, even more than salmon. One more reason to incorporate it into your weekly meal rotation! 

Sablefish fillets on a metal baking sheet.

Black Cod vs Sablefish

What is black cod? It’s Sablefish. Black cod and sablefish are one and the same. I’ve lived and shopped all across the US and have found that most grocery stores and fish markets label sablefish as Black Cod. Interestingly, sablefish is not overly similar to Pacific Cod. They are similar in the sense that they are both a type of white fish, but the similarities end there. 

Sablefish, aka Black Cod, is a dense, fatty fish with a buttery flavor. It’s more in line with a Chilean Sea Bass or even a thick piece of farm-raised salmon

How to Grill Sablefish 

Because sablefish has such a high oil content, it’s a great candidate for grilling. Here’s how to grill sablefish. 

  1. Prepare the brine by whisking salt into cold water to dissolve. Add optional flavorings like lemon zest and black pepper. Add sablefish and brine for 15 to 30 minutes.
Sablefish fillets in a lemon and black pepper brine in a large glass bowl.
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush grill grate with oil.
  2. Remove fish from brine (if brining), pat dry with paper towels then season lightly with salt and pepper. 
Sablefish fillets seasoned with lemon zest and black pepper on a paper towel lined sheet pan.
  1. Place fish, skin side down, on grill grates and cook, covered, until fish naturally releases from grill, about 4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until flesh is firm and flakes easily with a fork, about 6 more minutes (should register 125ºF); transfer to plate and let rest 5 minutes.
Four grilled sablefish fillets on a large white dinner plate.
  1. To serve, place the fish over a bed of ribboned squash salad and top with a tangy blackberry relish.

Tips for Grilling Sablefish

  • Submerge the fish in a salt water brine for 15-30 minutes prior to cooking. This will season the fish and retain moisture during cooking. 
  • I like to remove the bones after cooking instead of before. They are easy to pinpoint and remove one the fish is cooked. 
  • Clean and grease your grill grates before adding the fish. I like to fold a paper towel into a small square, dip it in vegetable oil and use tongs to coat the grill grates. 
  • Keep an eye on the fish, even though it’s hard to overcook, you want to do your best not to over cook it! When in doubt, temp it with a instant-read thermometer. The fish is done when it hits 125ºF. 

FAQs

What’s the best way to thaw fish?

If you’re planning ahead of time, place the frozen fish on a sheetpan and allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. If you’re in a pinch, place the package of frozen fish in a large bowl of room temperature water. Swap out the water once it becomes ice cold. The fish should thaw within 30 to 60 minutes. 

Where can I find sablefish?

Most really nice fish markets will carry sablefish (often labeled black cod). If you can’t find it in a local fish market, you can order it online. 

 

Large yellow serving bowl filled with a ribbon zucchini salad, four fillets of grilled sablefish and a blackberry relish, or salsa, spooned over top. Silver serving spoon set in bowl.

Sides for Sablefish

Like any white fish, sablefish pairs wonderfully with a variety of side dishes. For this recipe, I’m serving it atop a bed of ribboned summer squash with a tangy blackberry relish. But there’s so much you can do with sablefish! 

Grilled Sablefish Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Brine Time 15 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Category Dinner
Cuisine American

Description

A restaurant-quality sablefish recipe with blackberry relish. Why go out when you can make this at home?

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 lemons zested and juiced, divided
  • 4 (4-6 ounce) skin-on sablefish fillets, about ¾-inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 cups (6 ounces) fresh blackberries, halved
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 yellow summer squash
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • ¼ cup mixed minced fresh herbs such as chives, parsley, basil, tarragon and/or fennel fronds

Instructions

  • Using a vegetable peeler, peel zucchini and summer squash into ribbons. Toss zucchini, summer squash and fennel with 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a colander set inside a bowl; let stand until vegetables soften and water releases, about 20 minutes.
  • For sablefish, whisk together 2 quarts water, ½ cup salt, 1 tablespoon pepper, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest in a large glass bowl until salt dissolves. Add fillets and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • For relish, whisk together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and 2 teaspoons sugar in a bowl; add 1 minced shallot, and let stand 5 minutes. Add 2 cups blackberries, 1 tablespoon basil, and 2 teaspoon lemon zest; toss to combine, then season with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush grill grate with oil.
  • Remove fish from brine, pat dry with paper towels then season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Place fish, skin side down, on grill grates and cook, covered, until fish naturally releases from grill, about 4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until flesh is firm and flakes easily with a fork, about 6 more minutes (should register 125ºF); transfer to plate and let rest 5 minutes.
  • For vinaigrette, whisk together 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1 grated clove garlic and ½ teaspoon lemon zest in a large bowl.
  • Lightly squeeze zucchini mixture to release excess water; discard water. Add squash to bowl with vinaigrette. Add ¼ cup of mixed herbs and toss to combine; season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  • Transfer salad to a platter an top with grilled fish. Spoon relish over top.

Notes

Submerge the fish in a salt water brine for 15-30 minutes prior to cooking. This will season the fish and retain moisture during cooking. 
I like to remove the bones after cooking instead of before. They are easy to pinpoint and remove one the fish is cooked. 
Clean and grease your grill grates before adding the fish. I like to fold a paper towel into a small square, dip it in vegetable oil and use tongs to coat the grill grates. 
Keep an eye on the fish, even though it’s hard to overcook, you want to do your best not to over cook it! When in doubt, temp it with a thermometer. The fish is done when it hits 125ºF (52ºC).

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 recipeCalories: 472kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 45gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1.5gCholesterol: 152mgSodium: 912mgFiber: 7gSugar: 6g
Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
Large yellow serving bowl filled with a ribbon zucchini salad, four fillets of grilled sablefish and a blackberry relish, or salsa, spooned over top. Silver serving spoon set in bowl with a glass of ice water and a juiced lemon half set to the side.

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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