After seeing a wild barracuda you may be put off by their appearance. Long and thin and ferocious looking, the barracuda is a favorite fish to catch for hobbyist anglers. Despite their scary appearance there is more to the fish than their intimidating looks.
Can you eat barracudas?
Yes. Barracudas are indeed edible, providing a healthy and protein rich meat. However, meat from large barracudas is known to contain toxins that cause an illness known as ciguatera fish poisoning.
Barracudas are a game fish—meaning that catching them is difficult, and therefore practiced as a sport. Recreational anglers will go out specifically looking for barracuda. They used specialized tools and tactics to catch the barracuda.
Once back on the shore it is important to make sure that the barracuda you have caught is safe to eat. There are many different ways to cook it, and just as many symptoms that can potentially be caused by eating the meat.
How Do You Eat Barracuda?
In order to eat barracuda safely it is not advisable to eat a large amount of it. Cultures around the world that do eat barracuda, such as West African cultures, tend to eat smaller barracuda and include the meat in soups and stews.
Making a small amount of the meat go further means less of the toxin can be eaten at one time.
Likewise, eating only meat from smaller barracuda means subjecting yourself to less of the toxin. Because in the larger barracuda, the toxin is far more present. This is due to the toxin accumulating in larger bodies
Eating meat from a barracuda longer than 3.5ft in length is not advisable under any circumstances and can cause severe symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and even diarrhea. Symptoms can start as soon as 3 hours after eating, and can last for 30.
If in doubt, do not eat barracuda. If you do not know where it has come from and cannot be sure how large the fish was when it was alive, it is better not to take the chance.
Why Do People Eat Barracuda?
Despite their potential deadliness, many people around the world still eat barracuda. They are known for having a meaty texture and a full flavor. The low fat content of the fish makes it good in light dishes. Barracuda meat has a powerful flavor that can be the center point of a dish.
How to Cook Barracuda
As long as the barracuda meat you are using is from a fish shorter than 3.5ft, there are many possibilities for cooking. The fish works well in batter, as a steak, or even flash fried and put in a sandwich. Pair it with other strong flavors to make sure the dish is balanced.
It is important to note that barracuda meat spoils quickly. Meat that has been bought more than 2 days ago should be inspected before cooking. If the meat smells especially ‘fishy’ or has an acrid note to it, do not eat it.
Barracuda steaks are probably the most common way to eat barracuda. Simply sear the steaks in the fat of your choice, normally oil or butter, then serve with some side additions. Because it is strongly flavored, pairing it with something flavorful like asparagus works well.
A light sauce can be make from the pan you seared the barracuda steak in. Simply deglaze the pan with some white wine or alcohol of your choice and stir until the bottom of the pan is clear. Let the liquid reduce then add some butter to thicken. This can be poured over the steaks.
West African cultures use barracuda meat in stews. Simply make the soup base and add the meat in steaks to poach. You can either leave the steaks whole or let them cook until they disintegrate. Remember that barracuda meat with flavor the soup well.
Tomato or vegetable based soups are both good for barracuda meat. In Caribbean cooking, fish stews often include spicy peppers such as the scotch bonnet, or habanero. The fish can still be tasted underneath these spices because it has a robust flavor that works well.
Fried In Batter
Like most fish, barracuda meat can be fried in batter. Because it is low in fat, the meat stays intact as it fries. The last thing you want is for your fish to disintegrate in the oil. You can flavor your batter to compliment the fishiness of the barracuda or let the meat shine.
Fish and chips is a famous meal from the UK that uses simple ingredients to make. Batter the fish in a light pancake batter and serve it with homemade ‘chips’— like a thick cut french fry. Pair this dish with a sharp tartare sauce to offset the strong flavor of the meat.
Likewise, barracuda meat can be shallow fried in flour to add a crispy edge with less greasiness. Simply dredge the meat in seasoned flour before frying in a small amount of oil. This style of frying is great for barbecues and summer picnics. Pair it with a dressed side salad.
Although it is less flavorful, steaming fish is a great and healthy way to get protein into your diet. Simply steam the fish in a steamer and serve it with steamed vegetables and a source of carbohydrate. While the dish will lack some passion it will be extremely healthy.
Barracuda is a tasty and healthy meat. Just make sure that the barracuda meat you are eating has come from a smaller specimen. Meat from larger barracudas may cause poisoning. If you suspect you have been poisoned, call emergency services immediately.
If you are being served barracuda in a restaurant, you can probably rest assured that the restaurant are serving you safe barracuda. Any restaurant serving toxin laden barracuda meat would soon be found out. But, if you are worried, it might be best to avoid it.