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25 responses to “Loving the Unloved: Bat Rays”

  1. Michael Q (@Epicuranoid)

    The skates off the coast of Maine are supposed to be delicious, but protected. However I did not know that “skate wing” might actually be ray. We fish very deep water for sharks here, Any idea what our ‘clam’ eating ray would be and where we would find it?

    Clicked on RJs site — you have stripper out there? We are catching schoolies in the Kennebec now and should start landing some monsters soon. The guides are predicting a strong season after a few really weak ones.

  2. Michael Q (@Epicuranoid)

    LMAO! I actually wrote cornmeal crusted stripper on the special board once — should have learned my lesson.

  3. Richard Mellott

    I’ve also caught bat rays inshore in the SoCal harbors, some upwards of a hundred pounds, and my Filippino friends say you can also punch out a circular cut that is similar to scallops. I’ll definitely try this recipe soon.
    It reminds me of the prejudice against coots in the waterfowl community, which can get really extreme.

  4. Ed

    Will definitely give this a try next time I go halibut fishing. I still remember a meal I had with my buddy when our wives were out of town. We bought some skate wing, had some wine, cooked it up and sat down for our “treat”. We both took a bite, chewed it a bit, then stared at the other guy to see what he thought. Almost simultaneously we both spit the bites out. The ammonia taste was terrible! A quick order for pizza was placed.

    I’ve heard that milk is another marinade that will remove the ammonia/piss taste.

    Regarding stipers in Sacramento. We had a killer season this year. A guide I know had a party of five out. They had five stripers on at once (the second time in a week it happened). Just for the hell of it he picked up three rods, one after another, and got a total of eight on at once. All were released and the fishing continued!

  5. Nooblet

    Hank, I know exactly what you mean.
    Here in Australia, carp is probably our most notable pest fish, and no-one eats them. But if they’re brined properly, and allowed firm up for a few days, they’re a great eating fish!

  6. Krystal

    Now I’m kicking myself! Went out on a charter recently and didn’t really hook up with the cobia we were hoping for…but caught four different kinds of rays and skates. Next time!

  7. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    We don’t have bat rays here, but we do have lots of species that get thrown back (like that sea robin). When everyone told me that false albacore was inedible, I had to find out for myself. I did, and it was. Or so I thought. Don’t suppose you’ve found a way to cook one, have you?

    We’ve never pulled up a ray, but we get dogfish pretty regularly — I look forward to trying the next one.

    Your posts about things that nobody thinks you can eat are some of my favorites.

  8. Calvin

    When I was a kid, while fishing from a dinghy I caught the largest (I think) member of the sculpin family: a cabezon. It was about 20 -25 pounds–think mammoth bullhead– and caused quite a sensation. Most locals had never seen or even heard of one, but I had heard they were a by-catch that was sometimes sold as ‘blue lingcod,’ for the slight tint to the flesh. I cleaned it out and it turned out to be a tremendous eating fish. That was 32 years ago and I have never caught one since, but I have eaten every sculpin I have caught since. As a lifelong saltwater angler, I bet I’ve caught a thousand dogfish…I know they are reputedly delicious if you can deal with the urea. I have heard the milk soak too. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to clean one though. That’s a post I’d love to read, Hank.

  9. Carol

    A couple of years ago, I went on a fishing trip that was hosting a group of local chefs for a Slow Food event. We all caught well-known So. Cal. eating fish–kelp bass, sand dabs, sculpin–and someone brought up a wolf eel. Odd, fearsome-looking fish (not a true eel), nobody knew anything about it, and nobody wanted it! Except adventuresome me. I even offered to share…a boat full of chefs, and no takers. Go figure. Well, it was definitely their loss, as it turned out to be one of the best fish I have ever eaten (there was lots of info on the internet about how to cook it, as it’s quite well-regarded in some parts of the world). I’d take wolf eel over the standard catch any day!

  10. Robert

    I do believe that when prepared correctly, they are at least good, if not delicious. However, living in the SF bay area, i choose not to eat bay rays due to the very high amounts of mercury in them. They are bottom feeders that spend their entire lives in the heavily polluted bay. Rays scavenge the floor eating whatever they come upon, including bait fish that have died from mercury poisoning. The only think i would consider eating from the SF bay would be migratory species like stripers or halibut. I understand its ok in monderation, i believe its one serving per month of fish from the bay. Good Eats my friend.

  11. Ryan

    This recipe reminds me of why I like this blog so much! Thanks for taking the time to show us how to make Bat Rays delicious, I’ll definitely try the next time I hook up with one. Especially now that I know what to do with it.

  12. Jocelyn

    Great post, Hank! I love when you try new species that aren’t commonly eaten. Why don’t you eat the cartilage, though? I love the texture. I had a happy moment at a Meatpaper issue release party once when I overheard a fashionable young lady say “I love cartilage!” then bite into a pig ear.

  13. Matt

    I have enjoyed reading your posts about the lesser know fish. I was curios though do you ever consider the pollution contained in fish. You were very in depth about wild ginger and its possible dangerous side effects but I haven’t seen were you talk about it with fish. I know most of the concerns is with young children and women in child bearing age. My wife just had our first son and I did a lot of research and found that besides being a very touchy subject (especially in pregnancy circles) a lot of fish are considered not safe for eating.

  14. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Hank, thanks for the false albacore link. When they’re back here in September, I’ll definitely give it a try.

    Since the issue of contaminants has come up, I hope you’ll forgive me for posting a link to an article I wrote for the Washington Post about the risks of eating fish and how they balance with the benefits. Bottom line: except for pregnant women and small children, who should be careful about the fish highest in mercury, the benefits of fish almost always outweigh the risks:

  15. Nate @ House of Annie

    Out here in Malaysia, they smear a sambal on top of skate wings, wrap them in banana leaves, and grill them on an oiled griddle (it’s called “ikan pari”). Do you think your bat ray can take the same treatment?

  16. Gareth

    I recently hooked a few skates/rays and I’ve found that to remove the slime, what works best is to just take a knife and scrape the wings clean. Much easier and faster than scrubbing.

  17. Rick

    This is great! I am glad that the ray paid off for you, I had had my doubts that day! I’ll be trying this in the future

  18. marie dufour

    Excellent… growing up in France, my mom used to make ray in blackened butter, always poaching the fist first, skin, bones and all. Then she would remove the skin and bones and sautee the meat in butter, with capers. Yummy! I now live on a boat and here, in Panama, catch at least a ray a month. The new way? SMOKED ray! Cut the wings, scrub the slime off, remove from the bone, brine (soy sauce, water, salt, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, lime) for 4 to 8 hours, then cold smoke for 4 hours (nance or mango wood) … YUM!

  19. Rich

    Thanks Hank,

    My fishing partner yesterday caught a large still to be determined bat ray or skate. It had to be about 50 lbs. We let it go because I didn’t know what to do with him. To me it was a sting ray although I didn’t see a stinger just about a 3′ tail that looked like rebar. It had about a 4′ wing span. We didn’t let it in the boat, got the hook out of his shoulder without really touching it, so I don’t even know what it felt like, slimy or otherwise. Was a little afraid of the tail because of stories about sting rays. It was pretty docile in the net when we finally got him in after a boat chasing half hour battle that saw him dive twice under the boat. One of the best battles of my life and I only handled the rod for a few minutes, what power. Thanks for the post and will try to learn more. Will look for a video of how to cut off the wings to know for sure how close or far from the body. Was kind of happy to let this one go after such a glorious fight. Thought we had hooked a shark in the tail. Thanks again and it was a pleasure reading your post. Bookmarked your site.

  20. Kurt Bergner

    I have eaten one bat ray, and one skate. With both, I felt kind of guilty because the yield was so low. The bat ray was about 40 pounds, the skate about 70. I think I got about 5 pounds of usable meat off the bat ray, maybe 10 off the skate. And it felt like it took me about 3 hours to get it.

    Based on this, they all get a pass now. I put them in the bucket of “tasty, but not worth the effort.”

    I may take another crack based upon your tip about “aging” the meat. I cleaned mine same day, and when I had the cartilage and skin off, the meat just fell apart. Still tasty, good for fish cakes, but the grains of the flesh would not stay together.

  21. Isaac

    Hi. Would you mind giving us your brine recipe and how long you brine it?

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