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What is an Arctic Char?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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An Arctic char is a type of fish that can be found in both freshwater and saltwater. While abundant in some parts of the world, char is a hard fish to catch, since these fish swim in very deep and very cold waters. Wild Arctic char are usually found in remotes parts of Canada, Ireland, Britain, Russia, and Scotland.

Wild char tend to breed in saltwater, though they often migrate to freshwater during the winter months. Spotting a wild char is easy to do, since these fish have striking blue streaks and silver skin that shimmers. Frequently, wild char also have pink or red spots, though this is not always the case.

Many different countries have been trying to farm Arctic char for decades. This type of fish is mainly farmed in Winnipeg and Manitoba, Canada, though it is also farmed in Iceland, Ireland, and Norway. Since Arctic char can be easily kept as long as waters remain extremely cold, this type of fish is relatively easy to farm. Most char that are sold commercially come from Canada.

Char can be sold whole, in steak form, canned, smoked, or in paste form. Char is also a popular sushi fish, though it is called iwana when used to make sushi. Nutritionally, Arctic char is high in protein, low in fat, and low in calories. Thus, it has become a popular fish for those people who seek a well-balanced fish that has a large amount of protein.

Not only is char a healthy fish, it is also an easy fish to prepare. It can be grilled, fried, baked, poached, or broiled. Ideally, char meat should appear pink, though it should not be undercooked. Flavor-wise, this type of fish is frequently compared to salmon or trout. When purchasing whole char, there are a couple of things to look for.

Whole char, or fish of any kind, should have clear eyes and skin that does not appear too slimy. As with any other type of seafood, this kind of fish should not have a strong smell. While char does have some smell, this scent should not be overpowering. More often than not, char is available during the spring and fall months, though it is hard to find during the summer months. When purchasing Arctic char, it is wise to find a fishmonger who has a stellar reputation. Char is rarely available in large supermarkets, though many fresh fish sellers tend to purchase large quantities of char when this fish is in season.

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