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Is It Okay to Eat Fish Scales?

When fish is prepared for cooking, the scales are scraped off and usually thrown away. But, can you eat fish scales?

chef removing the scales of a fish to eat

This is something I’ve wondered many times, myself, so I set out to learn all I could about eating fish scales.

This may sound a bit strange, but there are places on earth where there are recipes that can turn the ordinary fish scale into a tasty treat.

Why Do Fish Have Scales?

Many fish have beautiful scales that are colorful and attractive, but one thing you may not know is that they actually serve an important purpose.

closeup of silver fish scales

Scales on a fish is like medieval armor on a knight.

Scales protect the fish from predators, parasites, and injuries. It also helps to reduce water friction and resistance. If a fish loses its scales, even in large numbers, they will grow back.

What Are the Different Types Of Scales?

Not all fish have the same type of scales, and some fish don’t have scales at all and are protected by a thick layer of mucus.

person scaling fish to eat

There are four different types of fish scales, each with a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Not only do these scales all look different when it comes to shape, size, and color, but they each exist for different purposes. Some scales are more for protection, while some scales serve to optimize the fish’s hydrodynamics.

Placiod

Usually, this kind of flat scale is found on sharks and rays. The shape is rectangular and doesn’t change in size as the fish grows.

These types of scales are often rough to the touch, comparable to sandpaper.

These types of scales are also usually covered with an enamel-like substance called ganoin. The purpose of this substance is unclear.

Cosmoid

Although these are similar to placoid scales, they are usually found on fossil fish and extinct lungfish. There are no fish alive today with this type of scale.

Cosmoids are strong, with two layers of bone, a layer of dentine, and a layer of vitrodentine.

These served as great protection for prehistoric fish to keep predators from being able to bite all the way through the scales.

Ganoid

These are the scales you see on bowfin, gars, paddlefish, sturgeons, and a variety of other fish. They are bony and spiny with uneven sides and have an enamel-like covering called ganoin.

Cycloid and Ctenoid

This is the most common type of scale and found on most bony fish such a tuna, goldfish, trout, catfish, and clownfish, to name a few.

They overlap and are more flexible than the other types of scales.

Is It Safe to Eat Fish Scales?

If you mean can you eat it without pulling a face, then the answer is a very loud no! It’s horrible, but it can be eaten if there is nothing else and you absolutely have to.

Eating fish scales is like chewing on plastic and getting it stuck in your teeth and throat.

But, believe it or not, there are places on the planet where people change fish scales into fabulous but strange culinary delights.

What Do Fish Scales Taste Like?

Well, it’s definitely not a pleasant taste unless you add a lot of seasoning.

But people, especially in Asia, do deep fry scales from large fish, and there are a few recipes that change the ordinary scale into a crunchy and crispy snack.

Can You Eat Them Raw?

It depends on the type of fish. If you wouldn’t eat the fish itself raw, then don’t consume the scales raw, either.

In general, our answer to this question would have to be why would you want to?

Are They Healthy?

This is where it gets interesting. Did you know that fish scales are very nutritional?

Fish scales are a rich source of calcium phosphate, and approximately 200 milligrams of collagen can be derived from 10 grams of scales.

This is a great way to add more collagen to your diet to improve your skin and strengthen your bones, but only if you find a good way to actually prepare it.

How to Make Fish Scale Jelly

Making fish scale jelly is easy. Just wash it well to get rid of the fishy smell and add one part fish scales to three parts hot water.

Add as much rock sugar as you like and let it cook for three or four hours until the scales become gel-like.

You can add berries or fruit to enhance the flavor. Pour the mixture into a container and pop it in the fridge to set.

It basically tastes like any other jelly, and to add more flavor and taste, pour syrup over it and have it as a dessert.

There you have it. Yes, you can eat fish scales. It’s nutritional.

Try the jelly, or if you feel more adventurous, fry up a few, add your favorite seasoning, and dish it out as a snack at your next barbecue. It will definitely be something your friends will not forget.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it! As it turns out, you absolutely can eat fish scales. You can eat them raw or cooked, but eating fish scales raw is probably not going to be very appetizing.

There are also multiple different types of fish scales that serve different purposes. Although, one purpose that fish scales can serve us humans is being the main ingredient for fish scale jelly. Yum!

Rocco Smith

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