The best part about going to the aquarium as a kid (and as an adult) is the stingray visiting pool! Carefully, everyone steps onto the ledge and dips their fingers underwater for a chance to touch the smooth, sleek backs of the stingrays. And hey, research suggests that stingrays may like these back rubs!
However, stingrays are more than just awesome creatures to check out at the aquarium. They’re also a common food source in Asia, the Caribbean, and warm coastal areas all around the world.
If you’ve been wondering about these carnivorous ocean-dwellers, you’ve come to the right place! Below, we’ll cover where stingray is commonly eaten, plus the basics on how to clean and prep your very own.
Is it Safe to Eat Stingray?
Yes! It’s very common to find stingrays served in Asia and the Caribbean. They are safe to eat, though most of the meat is very rubbery, as their skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone. The tail is also venomous, so when harvesting, it’s necessary to use extreme caution.
It is also safe to eat blue-spotted stingrays, as with most other species. Blue-spotted ribbon tail rays are also technically safe to eat, though their barbs are very poisonous. Best to stay away, in my opinion.
But can you eat stingray meat while pregnant? The answer is usually no, as they can have excessive amounts of dangerous metals, like other fish.
What Does Stingray Taste Like?
Stingray is most often compared to lobster or crab, but a bit fishier. So try combining the flavors of lobster meat with mahi-mahi or bass. Some even claim that aside from the fishy sweetness, there are also hints of coconut shell. Not too shabby, right?
This white meat is flaky when cooked, but can also be fairly chewy, yet tender.
Now, the real question: does stingray taste like scallops? Some say yes, though the lobster comparison is made more often.
When chowing down, you may taste something slightly metallic. There’s a reason for that! Stingrays excrete ammonia to filter salt out of their bodies – so, if you get a metallic bite, you’re tasting their filtration system.
What Parts of the Stingray are Poisonous?
The most important thing to remember is to stay away from the tail!
Halfway down a stingray’s tail is the blade, a venomous protrusion outfitted with barbs and plenty of pain. Stingrays can actually have up to three blades on their tails, but I’ve only ever seen them with one in real life. These blades often have barbs on them, so if you were to get stung by a stingray, remember it may have left some barbs in the wound. Ouch!
While most stingray injuries are non-life-threatening, it is still important to be careful around them. They are still incredibly painful and venomous. Symptoms include swelling, muscle cramps, pain, and potential infection.
If you’ve caught a stingray and are planning on eating it, the safest course of action is to cut off the tail, near the base of the spine. Then, remove the blade (the venomous needle that juts out from the tail) and dispose of it in a sealed box or bottle.
Fun fact: Freshwater stingrays’ venom is far more toxic than marine stingrays, thanks to their cellular makeup.
What Part of a Stingray is Safe to Eat?
Stingrays are related to sharks, which means that their skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone. While this is very cool, it does mean that most of the meat in their bodies is too chewy to consume.
There are three spots in stingrays that are eaten around the world.
- The “cheek” (the meat surrounding the eyes)
The only part of stingrays that are dangerous to eat is the tail and blade. Poison’s no joke!
Where Can You Find Stingray Meat?
Stingrays can be bought fresh or frozen at some grocery stores, though it’s not common. Your best bet may be at a local fish market or monger, if you’re living on the coast. As for those who are landlocked, there are several online retailers who will ship it right to your door!
If you’re visiting certain countries in Asia or the Caribbean, there’s a good chance you’d find some just about anywhere!
Is it Legal to Fish for Stingray?
There are different regulations for fishing, both commercial and recreational, based on the state or country. It never hurts to do some research beforehand on vulnerable and endangered species.
One such example is the manta ray! In 2011, the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals decided to protect all manta rays in international waters, due to their sudden decline in population. Individual countries have also protected manta rays, but that decision was crucial to protecting any creatures too far off the coast to be considered in certain territories.
Eagle stingrays, daisy stingrays, and most freshwater stingrays are either vulnerable or endangered. Depending on where you fish, the rules will differ, but looking at conservation lists is a great place to start.
Overall, it is legal to fish for stingrays on the coasts, so long as they aren’t any of the protected species. When fishing for stingrays, you’ll need a hook and line, so pack your bags!
How to Clean a Stingray
There are multiple videos online that go over the cleaning and cutting process in-depth. Since I do not have a stingray in front of me to demonstrate, consider watching some of those too.
To prepare a stingray, you will need a very sharp knife as their skin is quite thick, a bottle or box, and potentially a pair of pliers.
First things first, let’s detoxify this stingray. If you want to keep the tail, you can use pliers to remove the blade(s) and then safely dispose of it in a sealed box or bottle. You could also remove the blade, then cut off the tail to be safe. Or, to keep it simple, cut off the tail near the base of the spine and safely dispose of the whole thing. Up to you!
However, it’s important to note that you must cut off the tail closer to the spine and not the blade. If you cut near the blade, you risk puncturing the venom sacks near it and poisoning yourself. No thank you!
Stingrays don’t yield a ton of meat, due to their cartilage skeleton, so there are only a few spots that you’ll harvest. The main spots are on the front and back of the wings: slice into the skin and cut until your knife hits the cartilage. Then continue cutting at a diagonal, so you’re both slicing the skin and the meat off the cartilage. Repeat for the back sides of the wings as well, which will be slightly smaller cuts.
Once you have the wings, you can immediately filet them or slice them into more manageable pieces. At this point, consider washing the meat by dipping the filets in a pool of fresh water.
If you are good with a knife, you may want to harvest the cheek (the flesh around the eyes) and the liver as well. I won’t go into that here, but there’s plenty available about this online.
Then cut into the meat how you wish (either in filets or bite-sized pieces) and slice off the skin. The meat is thick and stringy – you’ll notice the rib-like texture as soon as you cut into it.
How to Cook Stingray Meat
In the Southern United States, the most common method involves a whole lot of grease. Like frying catfish, many out there love dipping bite-sized pieces into batter and then deep-frying them till they’re golden brown.
More often than not, stingray is either going to be fried, sauteed, grilled, or barbecued. If you’re traveling abroad, you may also eat stingray raw in sushi or sashimi. When cooking, keep that meat thermometer on hand and check for an internal temp of 145°F.
You could also attempt to make pastel de Chucho, a Venezuelan specialty that translates to “stingray pie.”
The two most common added flavors with stingray are soy and spicy Sambal sauce. Check out the recipes below for some cooking inspiration!
In my opinion, if any of these recipes make your stomach growl, they’re worth trying!
In spite of those venomous blades, you absolutely can eat stingray! They’re rather delicious, in fact. Some say it resembles scallops, while others claim it’s more like fishy lobster or crab. Most can agree on that hint of coconut shell, though!
So, what are you waiting for? Buy some fillets or grab your fishing gear. Whether you’re frying your catch or serving it in a pie, it’s sure to please.