Most kinds of fish have light, delicately textured flesh that's fragile and requires careful handling during the cooking process. A few species, such as shark, are exceptions to that broad rule, combining a mild flavor like other fish with a firm, meaty texture reminiscent of a good steak. This makes shark steaks very grill-friendly, but they're also excellent when pan-seared in a skillet.
Pre-warm a heavy skillet over moderate heat for at least 5 minutes, while you prepare the shark steaks. This preheating is optional, but it means your pan's temperature will quickly rise once you turn up the heat.
Lay your shark steaks on a clean cutting board and carefully pat them dry with clean paper towels. Use a sharp knife to trim away any loose pieces of flesh or skin left behind from the cutting process.
Turn the heat under your skillet to medium-high. Season the shark with salt and pepper or your favorite spice rub, then brush or spray it lightly with a high-temperature oil such as safflower oil, grapeseed oil or extra-light olive oil.
Place the steaks in your skillet, taking care not to crowd them. If you're preparing several, use two skillets to ensure adequate space.
Sear the steaks at high temperature for the first minute, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the steaks, and cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes on the second side. The steaks should be just barely medium-rare in the middle when perfectly cooked.
Remove the shark steaks from your skillet and let them rest for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.
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- On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals; Sarah Labensky, et al.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Fresh and Frozen Seafood -- Selecting and Serving it Safely
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch: Shark
- Shark's meaty texture lends itself to bold flavorings, and it plays well with both liquid marinades and dry spice rubs. Pat your steaks dry after removing them from the marinade, to ensure they sear properly. If you're using a dry rub, avoid sugary ingredients that can scorch and burn in the pan.
- Shark steaks should have a clean, pleasantly briny smell. If they're noticeably fish, they are old and should be avoided. Shark might also have a distinct ammonia smell, like window cleaning fluid, which is a sure sign that it's been improperly handled or poorly processed. Avoid those as well.
- The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch recommends avoiding most shark species, which are overfished and often harvested unsustainably. Exceptions include sustainably harvested Pacific thresher shark, and Mako shark or spiny dogfish from certain fisheries.
- Like swordfish and king mackerel, shark is an apex predator that accumulates relatively high levels of mercury in its tissues. Eat it sparingly, especially if you're pregnant or a nursing mother, as high levels of mercury can have significant health implications for your child.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.