How to Hydrate Salt Cod – Bacalhau

Portugalia Bacalhau

I’ve had many requests for the process of hydrating salt cod (bacalhau). It’s relatively easy to do so I’ve posted some information here for those of you that are novices at cooking with the cod.

This photo above, was taken at Portugalia Marketplace in Fall River. They have an amazing refrigerated room solely for selling the salt cod. It is said that the best salt cod is from Portugal because they use the best cod fished in the oceans of Newfoundland, and then salt cured using Portuguese techniques.

You can find the cod at most Portuguese markets. Some Italian markets or even some Hispanic markets will sometimes carry salt cod as well, but they generally only use the boneless cod. If you’re lucky enough to live where you can find Portuguese salt cod, I suggest you buy the whole fish, since it’s cheaper by the pound.



The tail portions and the belly portions are great to make dishes such as Pasteis de Bacalhau (Codfish Croquettes), Pataniscas (Codfish Cakes) or any recipe that uses shredded cod. Most will save the thicker portions to serve in recipes that call for bigger pieces such as; Bacalhau Assado, (Baked) or Cozido (Boiled).

You’ll find many other recipes here on this blog by using the search bar under: Bacalhau, or Salt Cod

This video is very informative for those of you that want to know all about the process.

Process for hydrating salt cod: **Have the market cut it into 8 oz serving portions.  Many markets also sell the cod in portioned or boneless packages.

Day 1: Cut salted cod into 8 to 10-ounce portions or have the market cut it for you. Rinse in very cold water to remove the excess salt. Place into a large pan or bowl which is big enough to completely submerge cod. Place in refrigerator, or in a large tub filled with ice to keep the water cold.

Day 2: Drain water, rinse and add very cold water to submerge cod. Place back in refrigerator. Later in the day drain, rinse and add cold water again. Place back in the refrigerator.

Day 3: Drain and rinse cod in very cold water. Cut a small piece from the thickest portion of cod and taste for saltiness. It should have some fishy and salty taste. If the saltiness is to your taste you can proceed to next step. Remove from water, pat dry on paper towels. Store in refrigerator up to 3 days in covered container.


Note: Some people will soak the cod in milk on the last day to remove some of the fishy taste, but this is optional. I like my cod to taste like cod, so I just use water for this process. As you do this more often you’ll find you’re an expert at it and you’ll know the exact timing for the process.

Storing: If you find the cod is to your taste on the third day, go ahead and rinse, pat the cod dry with a towel. Wrap individual pieces with parchment paper, foil, or plastic and freeze in freezer bags and label the date. When you need to cook it,  simply remove as many portions as you need and place in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. You can also place in a bowl of cold water for a few hours to thaw.

Note: Boneless cod like this photo below will take less time to soak.

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