If there’s one thing you should know about Chilean sea bass, it’s that it’s not sea bass. Its real name is actually Patagonian toothfish, which is so unappetizing-sounding that even though it’s delicious, nobody was buying it. So in 1977 a fish wholesaler named Lee Lantz, after considering the names Pacific sea bass and South American sea bass, went and completely invented the name Chilean sea bass. More recently, Antarctic toothfish was added to the Chilean sea bass umbrella, but the Patagonian variety is much more common.
The Patagonian toothfish is actually a species of cod icefish, or nothothens. It’s found in the cold, deep waters of the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, and can live at depths of 12,600 feet and temperatures of 34 degrees. It can live up to 50 years, reach lengths of more than seven feet, and has an average weight of about 15 to 22 pounds.
In most of South America it’s actually called merluza negra. In France it’s known as legine australe, whereas Japan calls it mero, while in Chile, it’s called bacalao de profundidad.
Chilean sea bass is a white, flaky fish, and it actually does taste quite a bit like cod. It was actually unheard of until relatively recently, when technology finally allowed for deep-water fishing. Most of the Chilean sea bass you find is from a part of the world where it’s sustainable but there are some areas where fishing for this species cannot be sustained, according to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.
So next time you see it on a menu, order it and see if any of your friends know what its real name is.
The best way to prepare Chilean sea bass is to pan-roast 8-ounce filets. Click here for our 25 best Chilean sea bass recipes.