For centuries, cod was such an important food in many European cultures that it has appeared on coins, stamps, legal documents, corporate seals, letterheads, on heraldic crests and on weather vanes. Cod is one of the most well known and familiar fish species in the Northeast, and it has played an important role in the history and economic prosperity of the region since Colonial times.

Cod is an ocean species that can be found from the intertidal zone to the deep ocean waters at the edge of the continental shelf. They are caught from the Arctic Circle to as far south as Virginia and Maryland on the American side of the Atlantic ocean. Cod live near the ocean bottom, and are generally harvested by offshore fishermen across the Northeast with trawl nets from offshore fishing grounds.

Locally caught cod is most abundant during the winter and spring with peak landings from January to April. Fresh cod from New England, Canada, Iceland and northern Europe is available in New York markets all year.

Cod has set the standard for the type of lean white fish fillets with a mild flavor and flaky texture that is preferred by most Americans. It is available in many different market forms. Fresh cod is generally sold in the form of fillets or steaks. In fact for many decades about a third of all fillets or steaks consumed in the US were cod. Whole cod can vary in size from 2 to 25 pounds. Traditionally in New England, small cod less than 2.5 pounds were called "scrod" cod. The term "scrod" has become somewhat confused in common usage with many perceiving it to mean a specific type of fish. There is no fish species called "scrod". The proper use of the word "scrod" is as an adjective to mean small. The term has been used with a number of different fish species commonly caught on fishing grounds in the Northeast. For example: scrod cod, scrod haddock, scrod hake etc. to differentiate small individual fish from larger fish of the same species in the marketplace.

A variety of different products are also made from cod. Traditionally, the "fish" in most "fish sticks" and fast food "fish portions" were made from cod, although in recent years other species such as hake and pollock are widely used in these products. Other items such as salted or dried cod, which was the only way to preserve it for future use before home refreigerators became commonplace, are popular in Latino, and other cultures around the world.

With its mild flavor and firm flaky texture, cod is very versatile in the kitchen. It can be cooked by almost any method, and common choices include baking, broiling, frying, microwave cooking and it is a good choice for hearty seafood stews, soups or chowders. Cod's mild flavor makes it especially suitable for a variety of sauces and condiments from traditional cream and tomato based sauces to simple preparations with herbs or vegetables.