Caviar 101: Everything You Need to Know About the Luxe Delicacy

Beluga, Kaluga, osetra, and sevruga are a few of the types of caviar that exist. These names represent the breed of sturgeon and, in turn, the type of caviar. Like there are many breeds of dogs, there are many sturgeon breeds. “Traditionally, the most coveted would be the beluga,” Bergstein says, “but we haven’t been able to get beluga in the US for a long time now.” Beluga is the prized wild sturgeon that swim in the cold deep waters of the Caspian Sea. Americans were eating so much of it that beluga almost went extinct. To help rebuild the natural stocks, it’s no longer imported into the US. The majority of sturgeon is farmed, but paddlefish and hackleback are wild. These varietals are more like the sturgeon’s cousins—”it’s like a doodle,” Bergstein says—because they are much smaller and spawn at a young age. Hackleback and paddlefish lay their eggs between the ages of two and five, while sturgeon don’t lay eggs until they are much older, say 18 years old. Siberian sturgeon is an unsung hero—and Bergstein’s favorite. “For an imported product, $95 an ounce is not bad, and its flavor is so good. It’s smooth and sexy and nutty.” 

Kaluga hybrid is the closest thing to beluga that you’ll find in the states. It’s native to the Amur River that borders China and Russia and is farmed in a lake with nets that go incredibly deep. It has a superb flavor because the water temperature is frigid. According to Bergstein, chefs like Kyle Connaughton of Single Thread and Larry McGuire and Tom Moorman of Austin’s McGuire Moorman Hospitality Group prefer to cook with Kaluga because it’s an excellent price point for the quality of flavor. Ossetra is the creme de la creme because it’s the only caviar from the Caspian Sea available in the states. “Ossetra is traditional. People recognize the name,” Bergstein says. “They know it’s a classic caviar, old school caviar, reliable caviar.”