Cleaning & Preparing Whole Squid

There’s not too many culinary tasks that intimidate me. I have a lot of nifty gadgets that can make even the most daunting tasks seem easy. However, I had a box of whole squid in the freezer for over a year because I just had no idea where to begin.

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Okay, before you get grossed out by food in the freezer for extended periods of time there are a few things you should know. For one, most food is absolutely fine for a REALLY long time if it’s been properly frozen, but the quality can suffer due to freezer burn (loss of water from the food due to evaporation, yes, even in sealed containers). The food is safe, just not the most appealing. The other thing is that the squid had been frozen in a block of water, which prevented the aforementioned freezer burn from being an issue at all.

The reason it stayed there for so long was due to the fact that I had absolutely no idea how to clean whole squid and just never remembered to find out when I had the time to do so. It seemed like one of those things that would be difficult and time consuming (like the process for cleaning most other animals), and so I hesitated to tackle it. Which was silly, because as it turned out, this was one of the easiest tasks ever. Seriously, I’ve worked harder at dealing with fruit!

Some quick notes before you begin:

Unbeknownst to me, the squid I had was on the smaller side. I had planned to stuff them rather than cut them up, and their small size was a real pain to deal with. Be sure you are getting the proper size for what you want to do. Small ones are great for putting into a seafood pasta, or for battering and frying. Larger ones are excellent for stuffing with a seasoned rice filling!

Aside from removing parts not suitable for eating, there’s not much more needing to be done. Squid is usually an already tender seafood, unlike how octopus can be. The only reason squid might get tough is due to being overcooked.

The leftover parts from the squid are perfectly safe to use in your garden compost pile if you have one. Just be sure to bury it deep to prevent the odors from attracting any unwanted visitors!

Cleaning and Preparing Whole Squid Instructions:

Step 1 Start by holding the tentacles and head in one hand and the body in your other hand. Gently pull the two segments apart. The head should detach easily and much of the internal organs will come with it. Fun fact, if you see a lot of white goopy material towards the end of the organs, you likely have a male squid. Females will have ovaries that will contain a lot of tiny round eggs.

I’m pretty sure this one was a male!

Step 2 Cut the head away from the tentacles just below the eyes. You want the tentacles to still be held together by a section of the head. Squeeze the portion of the head still attached to the tentacles to push out the beak. This part is sharp and is dangerous to eat! Cut away the beak.

Step 3 I trimmed off the long, fleshy tentacles, but this is not necessary. The remaining tentacles can be added as is to any recipe or can be chopped up. I chopped mine since I was adding it to a rice filling to stuff the squid bodies with. Set your tentacles aside in a clean area.

Step 4 Feel the body for the clear quill, it will be stiff. This can be removed by pinching the tip of the quill where it protrudes from the body cavity opening and just pulling it out. It should come out in a single piece and usually with little resistance. If the body of your squid has fins on the sides, those are also able to be removed but again this is optional. Just be sure that if you cut them away that you do not puncture the sides of the cavity.

Step 5 Gently squeeze the body to push out any remaining organs. Gently flush the body with water to remove any remaining material. The purple membrane can then be pulled away from the flesh and removed. Set the cleaned squid with the tentacles. Congratulations!! You now have squid cleaned and ready to be cooked and enjoyed!


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