Skates are funky-looking, ocean-dwelling fish that looks like a stingray, with a flat, slimy body, wings on either side, and a long skinny tail. But skates don’t sting.
Instead, they have many sharp spikes on the underside of their body that deter predators and humans alike from dealing with them. However, some people still catch them, risking a prick or two. A big question is, can you eat skate?
To learn more about the edibility and safety of consuming skate fish read this complete guide to eating skate fish and their status as a species.
Yes, many people eat and enjoy skate in several different ways. Skate is eaten around the world and is popular in French cuisine, especially paired with a butter sauce.
Many French restaurants in places like Las Vegas or New York City will offer skate wings on their menu as a delicacy.
However, skates are currently an endangered species and should not be eaten because the population is rapidly decreasing.
The endangered status is partly due to human consumption of the fish, but also because of pollution, overfishing, and warming oceans. Both the populations in the Atlantic and Mediterranean oceans are dwindling.
As mentioned, skates are edible and considered a delicacy in many places. Only the “wings” of the skate fish are meaty and edible, while the main body and tail are not.
You can order them off a restaurant menu, especially in French restaurants or unique seafood places. It’s safe to say the fish tastes good, and people enjoy it, but it is not super popular due to its conservation status.
The most popular ways to prepare skates are fried or sauteed, but there is a lot you can do with this fish.
It is versatile like cod or haddock but has a tender and unique texture that sets it apart as a luxurious ingredient.
Skate wings are frequently pan-fried with a lot of butter, or they can be fried in oil and served like fish and chips.
Famous TV chef Emeril Lagasse likened skate to the same fishy flavor of scallops. The feel of the fish is similar, like a soft fleshy texture that falls apart in your mouth but still has some firmness.
They have almost a dry interior when the meat flakes apart, comparable to salmon. The firm texture makes this fish ideal for frying or roasting because it will hold well in the heat and won’t fall apart.
Unlike extremely flaky fish, you can set them on a grill, and they will not fall through, but instead, rest gently on top and take on a nice char.
While the fishy, sweet flavor can stand on its own, it’s delightful with a rich or light sauce. The taste becomes enhanced when paired with a wide range of flavors, from sweet to savory to spicy.
You will only ever encounter wild skate, as they are not bred for consumption due to their endangered status and complex habitat.
Skate is a healthy protein, but some risks come with enjoying the fish. The first risk is that the fish can secrete harmful toxins through its skin, such as ammonia.
If the meat becomes tainted by this chemical, it can make you sick. If you smell the faintest amount of ammonia around a raw or cooked skate, do not eat it.
The second risk is the small and sharp spikes that cover the underbelly of the skate. These pose more of a risk when preparing the fish, as you can easily cut yourself. But if not prepared properly, these spikes may end up on your dinner plate.
Skate should always be cooked before consumption. The ammonia discussed above poses a significantly larger risk when the fish has not been cooked as the meat was in direct contact with the skin.
The raw skate will also not taste good, and it has a stringy unpleasant texture. For the most part, red and pink fish are the best raw consumption, like in sushi, while white meat fish have little to no flavor when raw and an unenjoyable texture.
Trying new food can be exciting, but it’s best to leave these sea creatures alone. They are becoming critically endangered in all their habitats, and humans are mostly to blame.
Be careful if you see “ray wings” listed on a menu, as these are likely skate wings masquerading as a stingray.
While an exotic fish like this can be tempting, it’s best for the species if humans steer clear for now.