Is Sturgeon Safe to Eat? Find Out Everything You Need to Know

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 30, 2022

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Sturgeon is the common name used for some 25 species of fish in the family Acipenseridae, including the genera Acipenser, Huso, Scaphirhynchus, and Pseudoscaphirhynchus. The term includes over 20 species commonly referred to as sturgeon and several closely related species that have distinct common names, notably sterlet, kaluga, and beluga.

It’s a large fish that can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh 1,500 pounds. Popular among fishermen, sturgeon is known for its delicious meat. They use bait like salmon, eels, clams, and shrimp to lure it.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about sturgeon as food and how to prepare it.

What is sturgeon

Sturgeon: The King of the Rivers

Sturgeon is a species of fish that can be found in rivers all over America. It is the largest freshwater fish in North America and can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh over 1,500 pounds. Sturgeon is a popular catch among fishermen, who use bait such as salmon, eel, clams, and shrimp to lure them in.

Why is Sturgeon Considered a Delicacy?

Sturgeon is considered a delicacy because of its eggy and buttery caviar, which is harvested from the female fish. However, the fillets of sturgeon are also quite delicious and have a dense, steak-like meat that holds up well on a grill or in a smoker.

Is Sturgeon Endangered?

Unfortunately, sturgeon is an endangered species due to overfishing and habitat destruction. As a result, it is important to only consume sturgeon that has been sustainably caught and sourced.

How to Prepare Sturgeon Fillets?

Preparing sturgeon fillets is easy and can be done in a variety of ways. Here are some tips:

  • Rinse the fillets with cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the fillets.
  • Heat up a grill or a pan on high heat.
  • Place the fillets on the grill or pan and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side.
  • Once the fillets are cooked, let them rest in a cooler for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.
  • Serve with your favorite sides and enjoy!

Are Sturgeon Fillets Bony?

Sturgeon fillets are not very bony, but they do have a line of small bones that run down the center of the fillet. These bones are easy to remove with a pair of tweezers or a fish bone plier.

Why Sturgeon is a Delectable and Ethical Seafood Alternative

The taste of sturgeon is different from other fish. Its flavor is mild, yet it has a unique richness that pairs well with a variety of foods. The fish is fatty, which gives it a tender and juicy texture. When consumed raw, sturgeon has a consistency similar to that of fugu (pufferfish). After several days of aging, a unique flavor comes out, making it a favorite among seafood lovers.

How is Sturgeon Consumed?

Sturgeon is consumed in various ways, including smoked, cooked, and as a cold fillet. The fish is edible from head to tail, and all parts of the fish can be used in different types of dishes. The head and tail of the sturgeon are often used to make soups and stews, while the fillet is perfect for grilling or baking.

Why Choose Sturgeon as a Seafood Alternative?

Sturgeon is an excellent alternative to meat, and its unique flavor and texture make it a great addition to any meal. Choosing sturgeon as a seafood alternative is not only tasty but also ethical. Sturgeons are prehistoric fish that have been around for millions of years, and by choosing to consume them, we can help protect their habitat and populations.

What’s the Flavor of Sturgeon Meat?

Sturgeon meat is known for its mild and delicate flavor. It has a sweet taste that is slightly tangy, making it a perfect seafood for those who prefer less robust flavors. The meat’s texture is firm, similar to that of chicken breast, and it has a flakey filet that pairs well with a variety of dishes.

Unique Taste that Varies

The taste of sturgeon meat varies depending on the type of sturgeon, whether it’s farmed or wild, and where it’s caught. Farmed sturgeon meat tends to have a milder taste than wild-caught sturgeon meat. Wild sturgeon caught in rivers has a more refined taste, while those caught in tanks have a slightly earthier flavor.

Comparing Sturgeon to Other Fish

Sturgeon meat’s taste is often compared to that of lobster or salmon, but it has its own unique appeal. The meat’s texture and flavor resemble that of lobster, while its mild taste is similar to salmon. However, sturgeon meat is far less oily than salmon, making it a great option for those who don’t enjoy the strong taste of oily fish.

Enjoying Sturgeon Meat in Different Forms

Sturgeon meat is commonly found in grocery stores in fillet form, making it easy to prepare at home. It’s also a popular choice for sushi and ceviche dishes. Raw sturgeon meat has a slightly sweeter taste than cooked sturgeon meat, and its texture has a bit more elasticity.

Caught in November for Richer Flavors

Sturgeon meat caught in November has a richer and more robust flavor than sturgeon caught at other times of the year. This is because sturgeon swim upstream during this time to spawn, and their meat becomes more flavorful as a result.

Pairing Sturgeon Meat with Vodka

Sturgeon meat has a very salty, fishy taste that’s often paired with high-quality vodka. The combination of the two is a fan favorite and is commonly enjoyed in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

How to Cook Sturgeon: Endless Possibilities for a Fantastic Meal

  • Grilled sturgeon is a classic option that yields a pure, white meat with a unique flavor.
  • Brush the sturgeon with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and your favorite spices or herbs.
  • Grill the sturgeon for 6-8 minutes per side, or until it’s tender and crispy on the outside.
  • Serve the grilled sturgeon with sliced red potatoes and a fresh, spicy sauce made with lemon juice, wine, and black pepper.

Blackened Sturgeon

  • Blackened sturgeon is a spicy and crispy option that’s perfect for a BBQ or a family dinner.
  • Rub the sturgeon with a mixture of black pepper, cayenne, and your favorite spices or herbs, such as oregano, thyme, or basil.
  • Grill the sturgeon over high heat for 3-4 minutes per side, or until it’s blackened and crispy on the outside.
  • Serve the blackened sturgeon with a side of fresh greens or a spicy tomato sauce for a bold and unforgettable meal.

Is Sturgeon Meat Safe to Consume?

Sturgeon meat is a type of seafood that is prepared and consumed in different ways in many countries around the world. The meat is classified as a delicacy due to its rich, fatty taste and high protein levels. However, given the threatened populations of sturgeons and overfishing, it is important to know if it is safe to consume.

Mercury Levels in Sturgeon Meat

Like many fish, sturgeon meat can contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful to human health. However, the levels of mercury in sturgeon meat are generally low, making it a healthy addition to your diet. It is important to follow guidelines for limiting servings of fish with high mercury levels, but sturgeon meat is not one of them.

Legal Questions and Regulations

The international trade of sturgeon meat and caviar is heavily regulated due to the threatened populations of sturgeons. In the United States, the federal law imposes restrictions on commercial fishermen who harvest sturgeon, and they must adhere to regulations set by the Department of Commerce. It is important to know the legal guidelines for selling and consuming sturgeon meat in your state or country.

Recommended Ways to Cook and Serve Sturgeon Meat

Sturgeon meat can be cooked in a variety of ways, including grilling, baking, and smoking. Smoked sturgeon meat is one of the favorites among seafood lovers. When cooked properly, sturgeon meat is completely safe to eat and is an excellent source of proteins. However, it is important to follow recommended guidelines for limiting servings of fish with high mercury levels.

Mitigating the Risk of Consuming Sturgeon Meat

To mitigate the risk of consuming sturgeon meat, it is important to know the species of sturgeon you are consuming. The most famous and sought-after species of sturgeon is the Beluga sturgeon, which is also one of the most endangered sturgeon species. It is recommended to choose alternative types of sturgeon meat that are not threatened populations. Additionally, it is important to buy sturgeon meat from a reputable source that follows legal guidelines for harvesting and selling sturgeon meat.

Raw Sturgeon: A Surprisingly Great Choice

Yes, you can eat sturgeon raw! In fact, it is a popular choice among sushi and sashimi lovers. Sturgeon has a unique flavor and texture that is delicate, smooth, and firm, making it a perfect candidate for raw consumption. The charm of the fish meat is best enjoyed in its raw form, allowing you to savor its refined flavor and consistency.

Why is Raw Sturgeon a Great Choice?

There are a few reasons why raw sturgeon is a great choice:

  • It is versatile: Raw sturgeon can be enjoyed in different forms, making it a versatile ingredient in Japanese cuisine.
  • It is easy to prepare: Unlike other types of fish, sturgeon is easy to prepare for raw consumption.
  • It allows for the best taste: Eating sturgeon raw ensures that you enjoy the full charm of the fish meat.

What About the Safety of Eating Raw Sturgeon?

It is important to ensure that the sturgeon is properly prepared to avoid any bacterial contamination. Here are some rules to follow:

  • Make sure the sturgeon is fresh and clean.
  • Only use high-quality ingredients when making a marinade.
  • Individual preference may depend on the freshness and cleanliness of the sturgeon.

What’s on the Menu for Sturgeon?

Sturgeon are freshwater fish that have a diverse diet consisting of various aquatic organisms. They are benthic feeders, meaning they feed on organisms that live on or near the bottom of rivers and lakes. Some of the primary sources of food for sturgeon include:

  • Shrimp: Sturgeon love to feast on freshwater shrimp, which are abundant in many rivers and lakes.
  • Salmon: Sturgeon will also eat small salmon, especially during their early life stages.
  • Clams and Gastropods: Sturgeon use their powerful suction mouth to suck up clams and gastropods from the riverbed.
  • Insects: Sturgeon will eat a variety of insects, including mayflies and caddisflies.
  • Mussels: Freshwater mussels are a favorite food of sturgeon and are an important part of their diet.
  • Lamprey and Eels: Sturgeon will also eat lamprey and eels, which are both common in many freshwater systems.

Diverse Diet

Sturgeon have a diverse diet and will eat almost anything they can find in their environment. They are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat whatever is available to them. Some sturgeon have been known to eat:

  • Other Fish: Sturgeon will eat other fish if they are small enough to fit in their mouths. They have been known to eat smallmouth bass, bluegill, and other small fish.
  • Crustaceans: Sturgeon will eat a variety of crustaceans, including crayfish and crabs.
  • Eels: Sturgeon will eat eels if they are available in their environment.

Sturgeon: A Sustainable Seafood Choice?

When it comes to seafood, sustainability is a crucial matter. With the increasing demand for seafood, it’s important to consider the impact of our consumption on the environment. Sustainable seafood refers to seafood that is caught or farmed in a way that maintains the health of the ocean and its ecosystems. It’s important to choose seafood that is not overfished or caught in a way that causes harm to other marine life.

The State of Sturgeon Populations

Sturgeon is a unique and highly sought-after seafood choice, known for its rich and delicate flavor. However, due to overfishing and habitat destruction, sturgeon populations have declined significantly in recent years. In fact, some species of sturgeon are now classified as endangered or critically endangered. This means that sturgeon is not always a sustainable seafood choice, and it’s important to consider the implications of its consumption.

The Implications of Sturgeon Consumption

While sturgeon is a delicious and enjoyable food, its consumption can have serious implications for the environment. Here are some important things to consider:

  • Sturgeon is a slow-growing fish that can take up to 20 years to reach maturity. This means that overfishing can have a significant impact on the population.
  • Sturgeon is a highly sensitive fish that requires special handling and processing methods. Improper handling can damage the meat and spread harmful bacteria.
  • Sturgeon is a heavy metal accumulator, which means that it can contain high levels of mercury and other toxins. This can be harmful to human health if consumed in large quantities.
  • Sturgeon is an expensive seafood choice, often considered a fine dining option in many countries. This means that its consumption is typically reserved for special occasions and high-end restaurants.


So there you have it- everything you need to know about sturgeon as food. It’s a delicious and ethical alternative to other fish, and it’s a great way to support the conservation of this prehistoric fish.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.