How to Choose Sturgeon Caviar
Sturgeon caviar is one of the most prized delicacies in the world. The eggs from sturgeon fish produce a refined taste that is rich, salty, and creamy. With many different options available, choosing the right caviar can be overwhelming. Follow this guide to learn what to look for when selecting sturgeon caviar.
Check the Species
There are 27 species of sturgeon, but not all produce the same quality of caviar. The top options are:
- Beluga (https://lemberg-canada.com/product-category/sturgeon-caviar/beluga-caviar/): The most expensive, known for its dark color and subtle, buttery flavor. From the beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea.
- Osetra: Medium sized eggs with a nutty, creamy flavor. From Russian and Iranian sturgeon.
- Sevruga: Smaller eggs with an intense, briny taste. From the sevruga sturgeon.
- American: An affordable option from North American sturgeon with a mild, smooth flavor.
Look for Grade and Color
Caviar is graded based on quality, with the top grades having the firmest texture and most nuanced taste.
- Imperial/Royal: Highest quality reserved for the best 10-15% of caviar.
- Pressed: Lower quality eggs that have been pressed and drained of fluids.
- Malossol: Meaning “lightly salted”, this is a high-quality product with subtle saltiness.
The color indicates the sturgeon’s diet and maturity. Darker roe comes from older sturgeon eating more crabs and shrimp. Lighter colors are younger fish eating more river plants.
Check the Harvest Date
Fresher caviar has a longer shelf life. Look for caviar harvested in the past 3-7 months. Some brands put “best by” dates, but since caviar lasts frozen, these are unreliable.
- Bright yellow: A sign of age or improper processing
- Dry, hard beads: Stale product
- Cloudy liquid in the tin: May have bacteria
Look for Proper Packaging
Caviar should be packed in small tins or glass jars. Tins are best since light damages the eggs. The packaging should be sealed with no air inside. Some premium brands ship the tins surrounded by ice to maintain freshness.
Avoid caviar sold loose or repackaged in non-airtight containers.
Read the Label
Check the ingredients list and look for:
- Sturgeon roe
- Salt (ideally 3-5%)
- Preservatives like citric acid (for freshness)
Avoid products listing:
- Artificial colorings
- Fish roes besides sturgeon
The label should state the species, grade, color, and harvest date. Reputable brands will list the fishing region as well.
Ask Your Fishmonger
Talk to your fish seller and ask questions like:
- Where is the sturgeon from? Caspian Sea caviar is generally higher quality.
- When was it harvested and processed?
- How is it being stored? It should be kept refrigerated.
- Can they recommend a particular brand or grade?
Their expertise can help narrow down the best caviar choice.
Consider How You’ll Use It
More refined, expensive caviar is best enjoyed straight up with a mother of pearl spoon. Milder roe works well in appetizers like blinis, caviar tarts, and egg dishes. Those on a budget can opt for American caviar for everyday cooking and snacking.
By checking species, grade, color, packaging, and more, you can confidently choose a caviar that matches your tastes and budget. With some guidance from fish sellers and this easy list, picking the perfect caviar can be simple.