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Bass is an insanely popular fish with anglers since it lives in many places around the globe. Chances are that you’ve seen bass in your area on more than one occasion.
With that said, is bass edible? And if so, how safe is it to eat bass regularly?
Can You Eat Bass?
Bass is a very popular fish among anglers, partly due to its tender fish meat. If you don’t like oily or soft fish like ladyfish, then you will probably like bass.
With that said, the taste and texture of bass differ noticeably from bass species to species. Bass actually includes plenty of species, with every bass fish offering a new experience.
Before moving on to the taste of various bass species though, there is one thing to talk about.
Is bass safe to eat?
Well, it is a pretty safe fish to eat, but there are two crucial factors to keep in mind. The name of one of them is mercury, and bass tends to have a good amount of it. And the other is listeria, which is a type of bacteria.
Mercury in bass
Bass is among the fish that contain a relatively high amount of mercury. If you didn’t know, mercury is a heavy metal that is highly toxic to animals. The human body can process and get rid of it, but it can take a long time for mercury levels to go back to normal, not to mention that high mercury concentrations are lethal.
Mercury makes its way into the water due to human activities like iron mining or coal burning. In the contaminated water, fish absorb mercury quite easily.
Mercury levels are especially high in predatory fishes. Sharks, for example, are among the most mercury-contaminated fish species out there. That’s because sharks consume plenty of other fish that are contaminated with mercury. And the predatory diet of species like sharks leads to the high content in mercury in their body.
Bass is far from being highly contaminated with mercury. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, the highest average concentration of mercury in bass has been observed in Chilean bass where the concentration of mercury is 0.354 parts per million. This is a little higher than in albacore or canned tuna (0.350 parts per million).
In other species of bass – saltwater, black, striped, and rockfish – the average mercury concentration has been observed to be 0.167 parts per million.
In sharks, for example, the average mercury concentration has been observed to be 0.979 parts per million. The highest concentration has been found in tilefish in the Gulf of Mexico – 1.123 parts per million.
Thus, bass is very far from being a harmful fish, though you should not consume it excessively.
According to the FDA fish recommendations, you should eat up to 2-3 servings of black sea bass per week. This should also apply to other species of bass with similar mercury concentrations.
As for Chilean sea bass, the FDA recommends up to 1 serving per week. 1 serving is equal to 4 ounces as per the FDA’s guidelines.
Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, women of childbearing age, and children should be especially careful with fish that are high in mercury. The FDA recommends that these groups of people consume:
- No more than 12 ounces of fish with low mercury concentrations. An example of such fish is canned light tuna that has been measured to have an average mercury concentration of 0.144 parts per million, slightly lower than in black, striped, and some other bass species. This should mean that you could safely eat 10-12 ounces of tuna per week.
- No more than 6 ounces of fish with higher mercury concentrations, e.g. albacore tuna. Albacore tuna, as mentioned above, has a mercury concentration of 0.350 parts per million, which is slightly lower than in Chilean bass with its 0.354 parts per million of mercury.
With that said, Consumer Reports disagrees with these recommendations and thinks that canned light tuna or albacore should not be consumed by pregnant women and women of childbearing age. Ultimately, deciding whether to follow the FDA’s guidelines or not is up to you.
The FDA also recommends checking fish safety information with local advisories. Keep in mind that mercury contamination levels will be different from area to area, so there may be entirely different recommendations in your state.
Risk of listeria
Bass caught from contaminated bodies of water bears the risk of listeria infection. Listeria is known to cause serious diseases in humans, including listeriosis, meningitis, and sepsis.
The risk of listeria infection is low if you are fishing in clean waters and away from sources of contamination. With that said, you should check with local advisories for recommendations specific to your area.
What Does Bass Taste Like?
So, bass is a relatively safe fish. To be more precise, it should be completely safe is caught from clean water bodies.
Aside from being safe, bass can be delicious too! But as mentioned above, the taste of bass varies from species to species.
Sea bass has a mild flavor that many anglers like. The firm white meat with a tender texture is another thing that plenty of anglers love about bass.
Due to its firmness, the meat of sea bass is suitable for use in soups – it won’t break apart as crumbly fish does. This isn’t necessarily a benefit for you, but if you like when your fish is intact, then you’ll probably like the firmness of sea bass.
Aside from making soups, you may smoke or grill bass, as well as use it in pretty much any fish recipe.
In contrast with sea bass, largemouth bass has a flavor that has a much more noticeable accent of fish to it. Well, you are eating fish, so you’d expect it to taste like fish, right?
With that said, not everyone will like the strong fishy flavor of largemouth bass.
In terms of texture though, largemouth bass doesn’t differ from sea bass too much. If you’ve ever tried sea bass and thought that its flavor was too weak, then give largemouth bass a try.
Smallmouth bass isn’t as fishy-flavored as largemouth bass. On the contrary, this bass can have a taste that’s drifting towards light sweetness.
As for the texture, it doesn’t differ from that of sea or largemouth bass that much.
Spotted bass is very similar to sea bass in texture and flavor, so it’s a good alternative is there is no sea bass in your area. Just like sea bass, spotted bass makes for a great basis for soups, as well as can be grilled or smoked.
There are plenty of ways for cooking bass. You can use bass in pretty much any dishes that fish are used in. In fact, thanks to its firm meat, bass can be used in some recipes where soft fish meat just crumbles.
Below, we have some recipes for those people who don’t quite know how to cook bass.
If you have a favorite fish recipe, then you may use it with bass. Besides, feel free to make changes to the recipes we’ll introduce to you below – these recipes are just for reference, and you don’t have to follow them word-for-word.
Frying is perhaps the most popular cooking method used with fish. Frying is highly accessible since it’s easy to do, doesn’t require an oven (which some people may not have), and doesn’t take too much time.
You can fry bass the same way you would any other fish. Here’s what you will need to fry bass:
- Some bass (make sure to follow FDA’s recommended weekly limit for fish).
- Olive oil.
- Spices and herbs to your taste. Lemon works particularly well with bass (like it does for fish generally).
And here’s how to fry bass:
- Gut the bass. You may also remove the skin and fillet the bass, but it’s not necessary – bass doesn’t have too many bones, and it’s pretty easy to cut the fish and remove the bones once its cooked.
- Pour some olive oil into a skilled. Turn your stove to medium heat.
- Season the fish with the desired spices and herbs.
- Let the bass fry for about 5-10 minutes.
- Serve the bass with the desired combination of herbs and veggies.
If you have an oven, then you have to try baked bass. Bass cooked on high heat is a whole other thing than fried bass!
Here’s what you will need for this recipe:
- Non-stick cooking spray.
- Pepper and salt.
- Herbs and spices to your taste.
And here’s how to bake bass in an oven:
- Gut the fish. Again, you may also remove the skin and fillet the bass if you want it.
- Set your oven to around 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Apply some of the non-stick cooking spray to the baking dish.
- Place the bass in the baking dish.
- Add pepper and salt to your taste. You may also squeeze in some lemon, as well as any other herbs and spices to your liking.
- Bake the fish for around 30 minutes or until its temperature reaches 160 degrees. If your oven has a meat probe, then you will be able to easily measure the interior temperature of the fish while baking.
Grilling doesn’t differ that much from baking, except that it may be easier to do for some people. It also may make for a much tastier fish!
The required ingredients are as follows:
- Non-stick cooking spray.
- Olive oil.
- Pepper and salt.
- Herbs and spices to your liking.
Here’s how to grill bass:
- Gut the fish, as well as skin and fillet it if you like your fish that way.
- Apply the non-stick cooking spray to your grill.
- Turn the grill to medium-high heat. If you have a charcoal grill, then add enough coal to achieve a grill temperature of 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Apply olive to either side of the fish and place it in the grill.
- Add herbs, spices, pepper, and salt to your taste.
- Grill the bass for about 10 minutes.
There’s another grilled bass recipe that you may follow. This recipe requires more ingredients and time from you, but it may be worth it.
So, this recipe requires the following ingredients:
- 2 pounds of sea bass.
- 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- 3 tablespoons of butter.
- 2 chopped garlic cloves.
- 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley.
- 1/4 teaspoons of paprika.
- 1/4 teaspoons of garlic powder.
- 1/4 teaspoons of onion powder.
- Sea salt & lemon pepper to your taste.
And here’s how you grill your bass with these ingredients:
- Gut the fish. This recipe implies a whole fish.
- Preheat your grill to high, which is around 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Put the sea salt, lemon pepper, paprika, onion powder, and the garlic powder in a bowl and mix them.
- Put the butter, garlic cloves, and parsley in a pan and heat on medium heat until the butter melts. Once the butter has melted, set the pan aside.
- Brush olive oil onto the grill. Then, put the fish onto the grill.
- Grill the fish for about 7 minutes and then turn it to the other side.
- Pour the melted butter mixture on top of the fish and grill for another 7 minutes.
- Pour a little olive oil on top of the fish before serving.
Bass is liked by many anglers, and it’s easy to use in many fish recipes. If there is plenty of bass in your area, then know that you can make a variety of delicious dishes with it!
With that said, do not forget about the mercury hazard of bass, as well as many other fish species living in contaminated waters. As we’ve overviewed above, bass is safe for consumption in limited quantities. Do make sure to consult local advisories though since the situation in your area may be different.