How Shark Meat Is Prepared In US Restaurants

Shark meat is not one of those things we instinctively think of as being good eating. However, like any other kind of athletic fish, shark offers an excellent amount of flavorful, high-protein meat for consumption. Though it is eaten the world over, in the United States it often comes bearing a different name. Though it is prepared in a number of different ways, chances are that, if you're eating out, you won't have any idea that there is a shark on your plate.  

Though it varies between species, shark meat generally has a very meaty texture and is quite mildly flavored. It is therefore easy for shark to substitute for other types of fish. For example, shark is often used to make fish and chips. As it shares similar flavor and texture to other sturdy fish, including haddock and cod, it is easy to hide shark meat beneath thick, fried batter. Depending on the establishment, it can also be pan-fried or grilled and served up as a steak the way you would a swordfish. Shark is also known to be brined, dried, salted or marinated and its fins can be used in soup.

What types of sharks are fished for meat?

Sharks have been fished off the coast of the U.S. since the nation's founding. While certain past operations led to the diminishment of shark populations, fishing specific species for meat has never been discouraged. Fin removal, however, is highly illegal. That being said, there are a total of 19 species of shark that cannot, by law, be fished or processed in any way.

The species of sharks that can be caught and processed commercially are not those whose skin has been historically used to make footwear, belts, and other leather-type goods. The meat sharks are far smaller and exist in far greater numbers. Sharks like makos, dogfish, thresher, and blacktip are not considered endangered and can therefore be fished. Also, from a sustainability point of view, fishing for sharks is actually a net benefit as it helps allow other species that have been, and in many cases still are, overfished to reestablish viable populations.

Any shark you consume at a restaurant is going to be one of those listed above. Remember, too, you likely won't even know that is what you are eating. If the fish in fish and chips, fish pie, and even imitation crab, are not explicitly listed, there is a high likelihood you're eating shark.