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What Does Barracuda Taste Like?

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Fresh barracuda on ice

The barracuda is a slim torpedo-shaped fish from the Sphyraenidae family that sports an ominous looking set of sharp teeth. It has two common species, the Great and the Pacific. A Great Barracuda can grow to a massive 100 pounds, but it isn’t sold for consumption in the United States due to health concerns associated with ciguatera poisoning.

The Pacific barracuda is a much smaller fish, weighing up to 12 pounds, but usually 3-6 pounds. If you’ve found this fish at a market or it’s on the restaurant menu you may be wondering if it’s worth your money? This article will look at what a barracuda tastes like – its flavor, texture, and uses in the kitchen.

Describing the flavor

The barracuda is a full-flavored fish like wild tuna with a mildly sweet undertone. It has a stronger, “fishier” taste than whitefish like haddock but it is  less intense than anchovies.

A barracuda’s off-white flesh is firm, dense and meaty with large flakes that have a low-fat content. There is a dark strip that lies just under the skin and runs along the center-line of the fish. It is edible but has a stronger, richer flavor that often comes with dark meat. The skin will shrink fiercely during cooking so it should be removed.

Barracuda flavor
Barracuda offers a delicious full-flavored meat.

Summary of a barracuda’s flavor

FeatureDescription
FlavorMedium
TextureFirm, meaty, flaky
FishinessMedium
OilinessLow
Color (cooked)Off-white

Best flavors to pair with barracuda

Add a combination of the following seasonings. The flavor profile and texture of a barracuda will taste delicious with them, cooked in a variety of ways.

  • garlic
  • chili
  • tarragon
  • dill
  • lemon or lime
  • black pepper

Recommended side dishes

  • Hot chips
  • Brown rice
  • Garden salad
  • Steamed vegetables
  • Baked potatoes

How to cook

Barracuda isn’t your typical fish when it comes to cooking, it will spoil very quickly once left at room temperature. The secret to delicious fish is leaving the fillets refrigerated up until it is time to cook. This is especially important if you’re in a warm climate, without air-conditioning. Even if you store barracuda in the fridge, it will only last two days from the purchase date. We recommend using barracuda the same day for the best results.

Barracuda in a crate at the market
Proper storage of fresh fish is essential.

Barracuda are popularly cooked as a steak or fillet and are delicious pan-fried, baked, broiled, or grilled. It has a bone structure that holds the meat in place, presenting well on the plate, without falling apart. With a robust flavor profile, it can be cooked with full-flavored herbs, spices, and marinades without fear of them overwhelming the fish.

Cooking barracuda with a teriyaki sauce, much like you would an eel, is a good option. Also, if you have a fish smoker then this will be well used on barracuda. The smoking process gives the flesh a lovely smoky flavor and a stronger consistency which holds its shape well in sauces and soups. West Africans use this technique to cook barracuda for use in many dishes.

Grilled Baracuda Recipe

Makes: 4 serves. Preparation time: 5 minutes. Waiting time: 6 hours. Cook time: 15 minutes.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 barracuda fillets

Method

  1. In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, parsley, and lemon zest until combined. Add salt and pepper to season, then set aside half the mixture.
  2. Dip each barracuda fillet into the remaining marinade until well coated then place in an airtight container and refrigerate for 6-12 hours.
  3. Preheat the grill on high and then lay the fish onto the heat. Lower the temperature to medium and cook for 7 minutes before flipping. Cook the other side for 7 minutes or until flesh is cooked through and flaky.
  4. Transfer the fish from the grill to a plate and splash over the remaining lemon sauce. Add a wedge of lemon and serve immediately.

Is it safe to eat a barracuda?

The barracuda is a prized fish, caught by anglers often using artificial lures. Although the fish is excellent for eating, the larger specimens should not be consumed as there is an increased risk of ciguatera poisoning. This advice applies to other large predatory fish like the grouper.

How to clean a barracuda

Many readers will buy their fish already filleted so you can skip this section. If you’ve caught it fresh then the fish must be bled out as soon as it comes off the line – this stops the meat turning dark and spoiling. Then put it on ice and make sure it is laid down straight to ensure it doesn’t turn mushy.

Fast facts

  • The Pacific barracuda is part of the Sphyraenidae family which contains approximately 20 predatory species of fish.
  • Other names for the barracuda includes the Kaku, Silver Barracuda, Kupala, California Barracuda, and Pacific Barracuda.
  • Useful substitutes for barracuda include mackerel, wahoo, and bluefish.
  • The fish’s long, muscular body makes it a powerful force in the ocean – it can swim up to 27mph.
  • Barracuda is commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical waters and is prevalent in areas of California and Florida. They can be found throughout the world near seagrass and coral reefs close to the top of the water.
A woman holding a freshly caught barracuda on a boat
A freshly caught barracuda.

Final words

The barracuda is a fish that packs plenty of flavor and has one of the best meaty textures on offer, a lot like what you’d get from tuna steaks. If you have kids or people that prefer milder tasting fish then this wouldn’t be your first choice. Haddock, shark, or snapper are better choices.

When you use the fish it is important to keep the steaks in the refrigerator right up until they’re cooked. This will greatly improve the texture. Most people that have bad things to say about barracuda usually have tasted one that hasn’t been bled and stored correctly before cooking. All fish tastes better fresh, but this is one variety that tastes significantly better fresh and will lose its quality within a couple of days, even when chilled.

What is your favorite type of fish? Please let us know in the comments below.