If you’re an adventurous eater or curious chef, chances are you’ve at least heard about the ongoing phenomenon of consuming shark meat. At a glance, it might seem intimidating, as sharks are often referred to as the “garbage cans of the sea” due to the indiscrimination in their diet. But, it turns out that with a knowledgeable chef behind the wheel, this sea creature can make for quite an impressive cuisine.
Shark meat has a long history of human consumption, dating back to at least The Bronze Age (1550-1130 BC). It still remains popular in some nations like Iceland, Japan, and Australia. But, in the Western world, it seems to have only recently begun its resurgence. This article is here to detail everything you could ever want to know about this interesting meat. If you’re curious to hear how it tastes, feels, and impacts your body to consume shark meat, this is for you!
What Does Shark Meat Taste Like?
The first question you probably have on your mind is how exactly it would taste to bite into shark meat. The flavor of shark meat is often described as quite mild, though it can have an interesting ammonia-like scent due to the presence of urea in its blood. Urea makes sure that the sharks maintain a proper water balance in their blood. There isn’t exactly a way to remove this urea from the shark, even when preparing it to be eaten, so instead chefs will attempt to mask it through a variety of practices.
If one were to compare the taste and texture of this meat to the meat of another animal, it would likely be either alligator or chicken. This isn’t to say that prepared shark is going to remind you of hot wings, but rather that the meat is similarly textured. Much like those two meats, the meat of a shark is moist without being too chewy.
How Shark Meat Is Prepared
There are, unsurprisingly, a large number of unique ways to cook shark meat. At its core, a shark is a firm, white-fleshed fish. Many of its preparation methods reflect how one would cook other fish of similar textures. It is typically sold by the filet or in steaks and can be cooked by being baked, fried, or pan-seared. When cooking shark, be sure to follow the safety guidelines of ten minutes per each inch of the meat’s thickness.
Some people will get even more adventurous in their shark preparation. You can sometimes find shark tacos, shark kebabs, or even a delicious shark stir-fry! Every chef from every culture seems to have their own take on a shark dish. Considered a delicacy in many places, this meat is surely something that you don’t find every day!
Most Commonly Consumed Shark Species
With over 500 species of shark out there, it’s important to note that not all of them are used for consumption. There are only a few particular types of sharks that get utilized for their meat. These include:
- Blacktip Shark: These sharks are some of the most commonly consumed in the US. They can be prepared in a variety of ways.
- Mako Shark: Another popular species, these sharks have a taste and texture akin to swordfish.
- Thresher Shark: Though less common than the last two, these sharks are also often used. In particular, they can be hunted for their fins. This is a topic we will elaborate on later.
- Blue Shark: Seen less often in the US, this kind of shark is quite popular in Asia and Europe.
Is It Illegal To Eat Shark?
Against the popular misconception, the consumption of shark meat is not illegal in the United States. It is not only legal but actually incredibly popular in some areas of the country. That being said, there is an aspect of shark hunting that is illegal in the US- finning.
Finning is a practice that is popular in some Asian countries because the shark fin is popularly used in many of their cuisines. Particularly, shark fin soup is a common delicacy. Unfortunately, finning is a cruel and environmentally dangerous practice. This involves the capturing of sharks, cutting off their fins, and then releasing them back into the water to die. This practice is done as a way to retrieve the shark’s most expensive part without using up the space required to take the whole shark. The entire practice, which takes the lives of countless sharks each year, could very well cause the species to become endangered.
Potential Dangers of Shark Meat Consumption
While it is true that shark meat has high amounts of protein, it also can have high amounts of less desirable substances. Most notably, there has been much evidence citing high amounts of methylmercury in sharks. This happens when industry pollutants get consumed by marine life. This is incredibly toxic to humans in high amounts, known to cause illnesses like cancer, kidney damage, and memory issues. Another two unsavory things found inside shark meat are lead and even arsenic!
You see, sharks will often fall at the top of the food chain. Instead of consuming organic material, they will consume lower organisms. The higher in the food chain a creature is, the more likely that it has chowed down on more than a few contaminants in its day. So, you might be able to eat shark meat, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Use your own discretion, and only feast on this meat if you know it has been prepared by a qualified culinary professional.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Light and Vision/Shutterstock.com
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