Skate Wing Is The Cheap Chicken-Like Fish You Should Cook More Of

Skate deserves to make the list of fish you're not eating, but should be, though many have never tried — or even heard of — the fish. In the ray family and closely related to sharks, skates are boneless, cartilaginous fish with a texture often likened to chicken. Skate wing, which comes from the animal's large pectoral fins, looks a bit like a chicken thigh before it's cooked. Skates eat a diet of bottom-dwelling animals like crab, shrimp, and oyster that gives their meat a nutty, mild, crab-like flavor.

Over the past few years, the popularity of the fish has trickled down from the menus of pricey high-end establishments to become omnipresent in a variety of restaurants. While it's long been a buttery delicacy of French bistros, it's also especially common in its fried version, a dish now served many ways at U.S. eateries: as the centerpiece of fish tacos, Japanese katsu-style, and beyond. In the U.K. it's a popular, especially succulent version of fish and chips — particularly on the west coast of Scotland.

Given its history at white-tablecloth restaurants, you'd think skate is an expensive fish. Really, it's one of the most affordable out there. Plus, as Rhode Island seafood purchaser Mike Roderick told The Washington Post: "It is wild, USA-caught, and more people should be eating it." It can be easy to find at your local fish market or online, and it offers a more sustainable alternative to other fish. That said, it's not without its drawbacks.

Some things you should know first, though

It's not all cheap and chickeny goodness. Skate can be difficult to skin and prepare, and it can go bad fast. When selecting the fish, make sure that it does not have an ammonia-forward aroma, which would mean that it contains skin excretions that could make you sick. However, once you have a good piece of skate wing, cooking the fish isn't rocket science. It pan fries beautifully, and pairs well with brown butter, capers, and lemon.

However, with few online recipes out there, it remains a very uncommon ingredient in home kitchens. Often, when a recipe does surface, so does a fair amount of confusion and worry about the unfamiliar fish. On the handful of skate cooking videos on TikTok, a common thread in the comments persists. "Skate is very endangered," one commenter wrote. In another video, a TikToker explains that "a lot of species are endangered," meaning that you should choose your skate carefully. This is true, in part.

Common skates — found in the Atlantic and Mediterranean Seas — are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) via OSPAR. However, other species, like Winter Skate, the main species fished for human consumption, are not endangered and continue to be sustainably harvested.