Caviar Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

By Natalia Benito

Caviar, the food of kings, is enjoyed by people of all classes.


The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) details what caviar is, where it comes from, serving suggestions, prices, and more.


What Is Caviar?

Caviar is the salted eggs from three types of sturgeon fish: Beluga, Osetra, and Sevruga.


Aren't All Fish Eggs Caviar?

No, only the eggs from these three types of sturgeon fish can be called Caviar.



Where Does Caviar Come From?

The highest quality Caviar comes from the Caspian Sea. Russia and Iran surround the Caspian Sea. The oldest and largest Caviar fisheries in the world are in Astrakhan, Russia. Some are as old as 200 years.


How Is Caviar Processed?

Caviar is processed by taking the roe (one large sac) and running it over a very fine mesh screen that separates the eggs into separate pieces. The eggs then fall into a large bowl that the ikrjanschik (caviar maker in Russian) then adds precise amounts of pure salt. It takes at least 10 to 15 years of apprenticeship until the ikrjanschik is allowed to process theCaviar on his own. The salt is added to prevent freezing, as Caviar must be stored at between 28 to 31 degrees. The Caviar is then graded and packed into 4 pound tins.


What Is The Difference In The Caviar Types ?


Beluga is the largest of these three types of sturgeon fish and as such is highly prized for the large size of its eggs. It is also the rarest of the sturgeon fish. The Beluga can weigh over 2500 pounds and reach lengths of 20 feet or more. Beluga Caviar ranges in color from very light to dark gray.


Osetra is a medium size sturgeon fish generally reaching 10 feet and weighing 500 pounds or more. Osetra Caviar ranges in color from bark brown to golden yellow. It has a unique nut flavor.


Sevruga is the smallest and most abundant of the three sturgeons. It reaches 7 feet and weighs up to 150 pounds. The eggs are small and gray in color.


What Does Caviar Taste Like?

Contrary to what most people think, good quality Caviar NEVER tastes salty. High quality Caviar processed in the "Malossol" (Russian for little salt) style does not have a salt taste at all. The taste of Caviar is best described as a breath of fresh clean ocean air. It has a consistency of butter and melts in your mouth.


How Is Caviar Sold?

Caviar is sold fresh in jars or tins. Sizes range from 1 oz. jars or tins to 4 pound original containers. Most typical in gourmet stores or restaurants is the 1 oz. jar. The store should have the Caviar stored on crushed ice or in a separate freezer set at the proper temperature. Caviar can also be purchased by mail order. It is shipped FedEx overnight in special containers. In fact that is how it is shipped to stores and restaurants nationwide.


How Long Will Caviar Last At Home?

Caviar will last about 1 week at home in your refrigerator. It should be stored in the coldest part, usually in the meat compartment. Only buy Caviar that you will eat in 2-3 days.


How Do I Know The Caviar I Am Buying Is Fresh?

You should only buy caviar from a store you know and trust. Once the importer unpacks and repackages the Caviar into jars or tins for sale it only has a shelf life of 2-3 weeks, even if maintained at the proper temperature. If the store has it on display they should be selling large volumes so as to be constantly turning their stock of Caviar. It is best to purchase from a store that will order it fresh or order from a reputable mail order Caviar company. Remember Caviar is a fresh product that needs special care and handling with a very short shelf life.


What Does The Color Of The Jar Mean?

Beluga Caviar is always sold in blue jars or tins.

Osetra Caviar is always sold in yellow jars or tins.

Sevruga Caviar is always sold in red jars or tins.


How Much Caviar Should I Serve?

You should plan on at least 1 oz. per person, any less is just a tease.


How Do I Serve Caviar?

Caviar should be served in its glass jar sitting on crushed ice. For large servings it should be left in its tin on crushed ice. The serving spoon should be Mother of Pearl. Never use silver or metallic spoons as they react with the Caviar and give it a bad taste. Caviar should be eaten alone with a good Brut Champagne or ice cold Vodka. Never serve good quality Caviar with any accompaniments, such as eggs or onions. This is to hide the taste of low quality Caviar.


How Much Does Caviar Cost?

Beluga Caviar should cost $30.00-$50.00 per oz.

Osetra Caviar should cost $25.00-$45.00 per oz.

Sevruga Caviar should cost $20.00-$40.00 per oz.


How Do I Become A Caviar Expert?

That's easy, get some Caviar, lock the doors, chill some champagne and enjoy, knowing you are eating the food of kings. Check out the links on the left for specific information too.

Author Information:

Our thanks goes to Natalia Benito the Caviarlady for her expert help in putting together these FAQs. She can be reached at: