Eels are not exactly something most people would look at and decide to eat. However, eel taste is better than you might expect, and these sea creatures are often considered a delicacy in many parts of the world.
That fact is likely a lot to take in at once, but eel is eaten in many parts of the world.
As a result, it is a good idea for anglers who catch and throw eels back into the water to understand eel taste seriously.
Doing so might not only expand their potential catches but give them better knowledge of the culinary possibilities of these underrated fish.
In this article, we’ll examine the unique array of eels on the market, their delicious taste, intriguing texture, and much more.
We’ll also examine three different recipes and several frequently asked questions that can help you better understand what you get when eating eels.
What Are Eels?
Eels are ray-finned sea creatures in many different suborders, families, genera, and species. There are an estimated 800 different eel species split between freshwater and saltwater.
They are usually aggressive predator fish and have long, cylindrical body shapes.
Many creatures are also called eels, even though they aren’t “true eels.” These include electric eels and spiny eels, which come in different families.
Interestingly, many eel species are catadromous, meaning that they can live comfortably in saltwater and freshwater environments.
What Is The Typical Flavor Of Eel?
Eels are surprisingly tasty though their flavor is not excessively fishy or overpowering. Some might even find them a little too mild, but this low-key taste makes them adaptable to many situations.
Their meat will easily absorb various flavors and seasonings to produce a rich meal.
Freshwater eels typically have a richer flavor, one that is bolder and with a sweeter overall taste.
Saltwater eels have a slightly saltier taste, naturally, but are also a little blander. As a result, you can end up with varying taste profiles when eating eels.
What Does Eel Look Like?
Living eels have a very long body that gives them a very distinctive shape. They typically have fins that run the full length of their body on the top and bottom.
Some eels may have slightly different looks and shapes, which produces very diverse fish.
Eel meat is usually white and fairly flaky and often comes in fairly thick steaks or shanks. That’s because eel are often quite bit and create very dense and tasty steaks.
However, some are smaller and may produce thinner fillets similar to other fish species.
What Texture Do Eels Have?
Eel has a surprising texture that often throws people for a loop. Its texture is typically quite crisp when grilled or fried, which gives it a rather delicious taste.
Boiled grill is usually far softer, which produces easier-to-enjoy meat for people with more delicate tastes.
Note that different types of eels will have varying textures, which is what causes some confusion among people eating eels.
Typically, eel has a fairly firm but soft texture that is slightly chewy. Thankfully, cooking eel properly can reduce this effect and make it more enjoyable.
Types Of Eel
The types of eel around the world are too numerous to mention here, and not all of them are eaten. The most common commercial species are the American eel, European eel, and Japanese eel.
Due to heavy fishing, many of these eels are considered endangered or critically endangered.
Other eel species are far more common because they aren’t fished nearly as much as other types.
The slight differences in flavor and texture you may notice in eels should usually be minor. Any major differences may be due more to pollution and other serious concerns.
Where Do Eels Come From?
Eels come from just about every body of water around the world and are common on just about every continent.
Freshwater eels may live in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams but are more common in deeper lakes where they can hide more easily to catch prey.
Saltwater eels live in just about every ocean and spread rapidly to many parts of the world. This makes it very common for commercial fishing companies to catch large volumes of eels by accident.
Some will sell them for food or other industries, while others simply throw them back.
Are Eels Healthy? Dangers Of Eating Eels?
Properly and safely cleaned, and prepared eels can be very healthy. They are a rich source of protein and multiple omega-3 fatty acids.
They are also low in sugar and carbohydrates and contain many vitamins and minerals that make them healthy, particularly freshwater eels.
While eels do have some risk for parasites and mercury, which we’ll discuss in more depth later, their biggest danger is their blood.
Eel blood is deadly to humans and cannot be ingested at any level. Thankfully, proper cooking and cleaning methods negate this danger.
How Do You Eat Eels?
Eels can be eaten in many ways and are typically served with a variety of different side dishes.
They are often a part of various sushi dishes and can be served with rice and other delicious sides. Grilled eel is particularly popular, though you can easily boil and bake them.
In fact, boiling eel can be a useful way of softening up their meat and making it easier to consume.
For example, you can boil an eel and cut it into bite-sized chunks or serve an eel whole. The world is full of amazing eel recipes that may surprise those who have never eaten this fish.
How Can I Store Eel?
You can place eel in your refrigerator for several days before it starts to go bad. Place it in a refrigerator-safe container and label the top to ensure you remember when you stored it.
You should throw out any eel after a few days or when you start to notice signs of spoiling.
It is often best to wrap your eel in plastic wrap to ensure that no smell exchange occurs. Smell exchange happens when the eel’s odor spreads to your refrigerator or fridge odors seep into the eel’s skin.
Wrapping it in plastic minimizes this risk and keeps your eel safe.
Can You Freeze Eel?
You can easily freeze eel by placing it in a safe plastic container and wrapping it in plastic wrap. Label the container to ensure that you know when you froze your eels.
Typically, eel will last at least 3-6 months in the freezer, though this may vary depending on the species.
It is important to check on your eel regularly to make sure it doesn’t get freezer burned. This problem can affect your eel’s quality and make it harder to enjoy.
Typically, freezer burn will turn your eel mushy, which can make it much harder to enjoy without some adjustments.
How To Tell If Eel Is Bad?
When your eel starts to smell very bad or fishy, it is likely spoiling. Fresh eels should have little to no smell and should be easy to enjoy without excessive odor.
You’ll probably start to notice this scent after about three days, though some eel may last longer before it starts going bad.
You should also pay attention to eel’s flesh because it can start to spoil or soften with time. This process may cause black spots to spread across its surface and turn the meat to mush.
When you see your eels suffering from these kinds of changes, it is time to throw them out for good.
Can You Eat Eel Raw?
While it is true that some sushi recipes do use eel, it is typically carefully prepared to prevent any dangers.
Unfortunately, eating raw eel otherwise can be lethal because they have poisonous blood that can cause muscle spasms and other problems in many people.
As a result, it is best to avoid raw eel whenever possible and to cook it when eating it at home.
Sushi restaurants will use various preparation methods that help to destroy the blood in the eel, which helps to eliminate the risk of serious poisoning you’d otherwise experience.
Do Eels Have Worms?
Like most fish, eels have various parasites that can be quite dangerous and spread to other animals.
For example, eels have a common parasitic nematode worm that lives in their swim bladders. These worms can spread to other eels and cause health problems rather quickly.
Thankfully, preparing eels properly can minimize this risk by removing them from the body or killing them with heat. That’s another reason why people don’t usually eat eels raw.
Doing so would increase your potential risk of infection and cause serious stomach problems.
What Is The Best Way To Cook Eel?
Roasting eel is one of the most popular ways of eating this fish. It roasts incredibly well, and its meat tends to firm up and take on a smokey flavor when roasted.
You can also easily flavor the exterior with various toppings, even barbecue sauce if you want something a little unique.
However, you can also try enjoying eel in many other ways, such as baking it. This option is a good choice if you want a healthier and softer eel.
Baking tends to lighten up the meat a little and doesn’t leave behind any grease as frying does.
How Do You Clean Eel For Eating?
Clean your eel by soaking it in water to break apart any dirt or debris that may be on its flesh. You can then open them up by placing a knife below their vent and working toward the end.
After cutting in this way, you can remove the guts and the blood and wash the inside with salt water.
This step is very important because the eel’s blood may be dangerous to consume otherwise.
After salting the eel, you can also skin it if you want and can then cook it however you like. These steps make your eel easier to cook and minimize any potential dangers.
Are Eel Poisonous To Eat?
Eel are low-risk fish for mercury poisoning and typically don’t have many other dangers or poisons. As we’ve mentioned a few times now, eel blood is poisonous to people and should never be consumed.
As a result, you should throw away any eel that has obvious signs of blood.
Properly cleaning your eel can keep you safe, though it is usually best to buy pre-cleaned eel to minimize your risk.
This eel may be available at various Asian supermarkets and can ensure that your food is safe before serving or cooking.
Eel Vs. Lobster
Eel has a taste that is fairly similar to lobster and other types of shellfish. Both have a slight toughness that makes them uniquely chewy.
However, lobsters tend to be a little sharper in flavor, easier to find, and inexpensive, though they are harder to cook.
Like lobster, eel also has a slight similarity to squid in its taste. However, eel has more of a chicken taste, which makes it a little easier for some people to enjoy.
Note that eel has also been compared to frogs and snakes, so if you have those animals on your diet, you have a good idea of what to expect.
How Do You Cook Eel?
Eel can be cooked in many ways after you carefully clean and prepare it to remove the blood and make it safer.
When using pre-prepared eel, you can place the meat directly on your cooking surface and season it with salt, pepper, garlic, and other delicious ingredients.
However, many culinary traditions create unique ways of cooking eels, such as jellying them and even sauteing them in various ways.
Smoked eel is also popular in England and other countries and is commonly eaten as a snack with tea or other meals.
Nutritional Value Table
|Nutritional Value of a 3.5-Ounce Serving of Eel
|126% of your daily value
Quick Table: Eel Recipes
|Greek-Style Boiled Eel
Unagi is a traditional Japanese eel dish that works well as a first-time meal for many people. Start by washing rice and let it drain for 30 minutes before cooking in a large pan for at least 12-15 minutes.
Put unagi sauce and simmer for another five minutes before adding eel and cooking for another five.
Heat water and stir in dashi, soy sauce, and sake until fully mixed. Serve the eel in with the rice and pour the stock, green onions, and wasabi on the eel to flavor it. Try this meal if you love Japanese dishes and want something different.
Total Preparation Time: 7 minutes
This Japanese recipe is a bit more advanced than traditional unagi and requires you to mix mirin and sake in a small saucepan and boil.
Add sugar and stir before putting in soy sauce and boiling and simmering until it thickens. Spread the unagi and put it on the grill with the skin down.
Grill for several minutes and then baste with the unagi sauce before cooking and basting on both sides.
Serve this meal with hot rice and add any other toppings, such as barbecue sauce. This delicious meal is a great choice for people with a bit more cooking experience.
Total Preparation Time: 50 minutes
Japan is not the only country with fantastic eel recipes, and this simple Greek option is great for people who want a quick and easy meal.
Start by cleaning the eel, if necessary, and then cutting it in half. Sprinkle with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
Broil the fish in your oven and serve directly to the plate, pairing it with potatoes, rice, or asparagus.
This meal is a great choice for people who don’t have a lot of cooking experience or who want a healthier alternative that lets you flavor the meat however you want.
Total Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
Are American Eels Dangerous To Catch?
Eels are a tough creature that will fight back heavily when you catch them and may bite you. Their long and slithery body can make it hard to control them when catching them.
However, they are only dangerous if you consume their blood, though you should disinfect any bite you experience.
Should I Risk Eating Eels?
The fact that eels have poisonous blood is understandably concerning to many people. However, they are usually safe to eat as long as you properly clean and cook their bodies.
You want to make sure you get rid of all blood to minimize your risk and if you aren’t sure, get someone to do it professionally.
Who Can Help Prepare My Eel?
If you catch eels and want them processed professionally, many companies can help you.
Fish markets typically understand how to process eels to avoid poisoning risks properly. Talk to these individuals if you find yourself worrying about your food safety.
What Side Dishes Go Best With Eel?
Eel goes well with just about any fish-friendly side dish, such as asparagus, broccoli, rice, and fried potatoes.
These foods produce a broad range of unique textures that complement that eel very well. They also bring out a bit more flavor from the sometimes low-key eel.
Learn how to grill eels using this unique recipe from YouTube.
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