Scrod is a generic term which is used to refer to fresh whitefish which has been split and boned before sale. The term “scrod” is often seen in the area of New England, where people usually take it to mean “catch of the day.” Rather than referring to a specific fish, scrod can be any number of species, prepared in any number of ways. This term appears to have originated in the 1800s, and it is native to New England.
Some people specifically declare that scrod is either cod or haddock, two whitefish which are popular food fishes in New England. Since “scrod” refers to fresh fish and cod and haddock are traditionally salted or otherwise preserved, the use of “scrod” for fresh and “cod” for salted or preserved fish can be seen in some fishing communities. However, others say that the term can be used more generally for any type of whitefish, especially since cod is on the decline due to overfishing, and because preserved fish is getting increasingly rare.
In order to be considered scrod, the fish must be split and boned so that it is ready for cooking and eating, and it must be fresh. Whitefish are famous for having a relatively mild flavor, with firm, filling flesh, and they can be prepared in a variety of ways. Whitefish were also once abundant off the coasts of New England, making them a common and well known food. Scrod may be steamed, broiled, baked, or fried, and it can be included in soups, seafood stews, and other dishes.
For restaurants, the generic use of “scrod” can cover many catches of the day, allowing the restaurant to advertise scrod without knowing which fish will be delivered. Once the establishment knows which species is being served, they can pass the information on to the waiters. Menus may also be printed with “scrod” instead of a specific type of fish, to allow the chef to substitute as needed. Some restaurants even integrate the term into their name, as a bit of local color which patrons may enjoy.
Fish markets usually identify the species for sale, so the term “scrod” is not used very often by fishmongers. In fact, genetic testing of fish for sale performed by curious college students in 2008 revealed that many fish are mislabeled, either deliberately or by accident, so “scrod” might be the most accurate description for some of the offerings at the fish counter.