Pacific Hake / Whiting
Whole Pacific Whiting [North Pacific Hake; Merluccius productus]

This cod relative is native to the eastern North Pacific from southern Mexico to southern Alaska, and is very similar to the Silver Hake found on the Atlantic side. Pacific Hake doesn't keep well, so it is usually processed immediately at sea. Most of the catch is processed into surimi and similar products, as well as fish meal for aquaculture. Some is sold dressed for human consumption: gutted, headless and frozen. The fishery is highly regulated and this fish is IUCN Red List LC (Least Concern). Pacific Hake can grow to 35 inches and over 2-1/2 pounds, but the photo specimen was 15-1/2 inches and weighed 13-3/4 ounces.

More on Cod, Pollock, Haddock, Hake & Whiting.


New England Hake / Whiting (Merluccius bilinearis). is so similar to the Pacific Hake I'm presuming the details below are valid for both.

You will notice this fish is very limp, because the bone structure is sparse and the flesh very tender. The tender flesh quickly falls apart with most methods of wet cooking and is not usable for soups or stews.

Cooking:   The flavor of this fish is very mild and the flesh very tender. I usually pan fry skin-on fillets lightly dusted with rice flour and eaten with a light Lemon Wine Sauce that doesn't mask the taste of the fish. Just fry the non-skin side first to stiffen the fillet. Skin off filets will probably have broken up before getting to the pan.

I have poached whole head-off fish and disassembled them on the plate (I always eat poached fish with pointy chopsticks). Fillets will twist and break up. If you don't want the skin, it's easy to remove on the plate.

Processed Pacific Whiting Buying:   Whole fish, like the photo specimen above, are not at all common. Hake is mostly sold headed, gutted and frozen at sea, in the form pictured to the left. The whole fish photo specimen above was purchased from a Philippine market in Los Angeles (Eagle Rock) for 2018 US $1.99 / pound.

Scales:   this fish as tiny scales with such poor adhesion most are rubbed off during capture.The photo specimen fish had only a few scattered scales.

Prep & Cleaning:   This fish does not contain a whole lot of innards and is pretty easy to clean. The body cavity extends a ways farther back than the vent, but is easy to clean out. The gills pull a bit hard, so use your long nose pliers.

Filleting:   This fish fillets fairly easily, but the flesh is very tender and care must be taken not to break it up. There's not a lot of bones or fin rays to follow until you get to the backbone. The ribs are short, thick and almost horizontal. When you have cut the fillet free up to the rib cage, cut it from the top of the ribs and just pull it off the ends. The dark lining of the body cavity will probably also pull off. Each fillet will have about 6 centerline pin bones that should be pulled out straight forward.

Skin:   The skin shrinks only a little in cooking, and it's flavor is just a little stronger than that of the flesh. It is very thin and tender, but, with care, it is removable using the standard long knife and cutting board Method. On the other hand, you probably don't want to remove it, because it'll be all that holds the flesh together with most cooking methods. It can be removed easily after cooking.

Yield:   The photo specimen weighed 13-3/4 ounces and yielded 6-3/4 ounces of skin-on fillet (49%). Skinless would be 6-1/2 ounces (47%). The more common form, frozen, headless and gutted, is likely to weigh 8-1/2 ounces with a yield of 6-1/4 ounces of skin-on fillet (76%). Skin off that was 5-3/4 ounces (68%).

Stock:   Heads, bones and fins make a light colored but slightly cloudy stock with very little oil (see Method). Remove what oil there is using your gravy separator.

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