Although sharks are fearsome predators in their natural element, they're surprisingly easy to like once they're out of the water and on your plate. Their flavor is mild and sweet, like most white-fleshed fish, but their texture is meaty and chewy like a beef steak. It's usually sold in the form of cut steaks, like tuna, but occasionally you might see a shark loin for sale. These can be cooked whole, as you would with a corresponding tuna loin.
Small to medium-sized fish, such as salmon and haddock, are usually sold as whole fillets or fillet portions. These cuts are seldom more than 1 1/2 inches in thickness, a perfectly practical size for cooking. Larger fish such as sharks and tuna present more of a challenge, because their fillets are so large. The thick strip of muscle along the top of their backbone is usually separated and cut into triangular steaks, ranging from 3 to 6 inches per side. If it's sold as a larger piece, similar in general dimensions to a beef tenderloin, it's described as a shark "loin."
Portions of shark loin are typically sold in sizes ranging from 2 to 3 pounds, yielding two to four portions per pound depending on your appetite. You'll be hard pressed to find recipes specifically for shark loin, because it's an uncommon cut, but any recipe calling for tuna loins can be used. Shark has a less distinctive flavor than tuna but its flesh is similarly firm, and it works well with the same seasonings and preparation methods. If you're adapting a tuna recipe, the cooking time might need to be extended for a few minutes. Tuna is often served rare, while shark is better if cooked to medium-rare instead.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to cook a shark loin is by grilling it. Marinate the loin for an hour or two for added flavor, if you wish, then blot the surface of the loin dry. Preheat your grill to medium-high, approximately 425 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and brush or spray the loin with oil to protect it from drying in the grill's heat. Place your loin on the grill and cook it on each side for approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the loin from your grill and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
You also can prepare your shark loin in the oven, just as you would if you prepared a beef tenderloin or striploin as a premium roast. Roll the loin in sesame seeds, crushed nuts or coarsely-ground spices until it's well coated. Preheat your oven to 450 F, and position the loin in the middle of a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cook the loin in this intense heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until its interior temperature reaches 130 F. Rest the loin for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing it. The darker or more vividly colorful your crust, the more dramatic your slices will appear on the plate.
Fresh shark loin should smell fresh and just slightly briny. If it smells of ammonia, it's been mishandled and should be avoided. For the maximum in food safety, the USDA's guidelines call for all fresh fish to be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145, slightly more done than shark is usually prepared. It's the same dilemma faced by diners who prefer rare steaks or eggs with soft yolks, and it's a matter of personal choice. If you're pregnant or nursing, or if you have a compromised immune system, it's best to be cautious. Shark also tends to have high levels of mercury, another reason for pregnant or nursing women to eat it sparingly.
- On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals; Sarah Labensky, et al.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart
- Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images