Over the years I’ve moaned and groaned about not having access to beautiful, fresh seafood, because I live in a land-locked state. Those of you who live on the coasts, or just about anywhere in Europe, have no idea how different it is to not have a seafood market or, better yet, a personal fish monger. As a result, I have minimal experience working with fish, outside of cleaning fresh trout when we fish in Colorado.
But I decided to put an end to my complaining, and order some seafood online from (hopefully) a reputable source. I ordered 5 pounds of frozen whole squid from a fish market in Seattle. Fortunately it came in two 2.5 pound packages so I was able to keep one frozen and thaw the other.
Ordering squid rings would have been easier, but I couldn’t find them, and honestly, it was a good experience to learn about the creatures as I cleaned and prepared them. It made me happy, like an Italian grandma!
If you’ve never cleaned squid, you’ll enjoy this tutorial. If you have lots of experience with seafood, well then I have some expletives for you, cause I’m jealous!
There are two parts to a squid.
A body or tube, and a head with tentacles attached.
The first step is to pull the head out of the body; set the head aside. Head instructions below.
Have a large bowl of clean water on hand. I rinsed the squid 4-5 times during the cleaning process.
Remove the fins from the tail end of the squid, by just pulling them off.
Then remove the skin, by simply grabbing it and pulling on it; the skin comes off easily.
You now have a body, but there is a cartillagenous back bone. See it sticking out? It goes from neck to tail.
I used tweezers to pull out the back bone.
Next is to remove the innards of the squid bodies. Use your fingers to soften the insides, and then just squeeze them out just like you’re squeezing sausage out of its casing.
Rinse the squid well, refreshing the water a few times.
Next you must clean the head and tentacle end of the squid.
Do this by placing the head on a cutting board, and cutting right above the eye. Discard the eyeball and anything attached to it.
Using your fingers, pinch the tentacle end, and right where you sliced, and out should pop the beak of the squid. Discard those as well.
Now, you have clean squid bodies to use for stuffing, or to slice into rings, as I did.
And you also have tentacles, all ready to cook!
I especially love squid on salads.
In Nice I enjoyed fire-grilled calamari just by themselves and they were magnificent!
If you’ve never had squid, I encourage you try it. They’re not fishy. Yes, they have a texture, but they are not rubbery. If you’ve had rubbery squid, then they were overcooked, just like rubbery chicken.
Recently I made a Nigella pasta recipe using squid rings and tentacles. Try it and you’ll see how easy they are to cook!
Great informative post Mimi! Love fresh seafood. Miss the wet markets in HK when the squid were still swimming.
Thanks, Bobbi! Did you move back to the states?
I hear you when you say that is hard to leave far away from the coast! Now that we moved in Midwest I miss Italian fresh seafood every single day! Never thought about buying it online, but now you have shared your experience I will definitely do it, and make treasure of your tutorial! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for your comment. If you moved from Italy, then I really feel your pain!
Great tutorial, Mimi. (The skin comes off slightly less easily from fresh squid.) You should make stuffed squid from the recipe on my blog :-)
Good to know. The thing is, I haven’t been able to find large squid online.
Great tutorial! I’m glad you’ve found a solution for the lack of fresh seafood. :)
A limited solution, but I’ll keep searching! I’d really love to find large rings!
I doubt most people know how much prep work goes into that fried calamari appetizer. Great look at it, thank you. As a fellow landlocked state dweller, I feel your pain.
Hahahaha! I’m sorry!
Great tutorial! And squid freezes really well — it’s a great way to buy it. I haven’t made anything with squid in ages, and you definitely have me craving it. :-)
Good to know about freezing. Which is probably why the quality seemed good (although I’m sure nothing like right out of the water.)
Excellent tutuorial! Even though I’m well-versed in cleaning the various fish I’ve caught, I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do with a squid.
That’s all I know – how to clean trout!
Wow this is such an informative post. I live in Los Angeles and seafood is abundant but I’ve never taken the time to learn this properly. No more buying precleaned for me.
Wow! this is so educative. Who would’ve thought so much work goes in that squid pasta that I can order in just a few minutes. Mimi, your blog is full of life. Really enjoy it and your encouragement on our blog Kitchenpostcards. You’ll see two of us- Kanik and Sakshi- post there alternatively.
In Spain they tend not to clean the squid at the local fishmongers, just in the large supermarkets so I got used to doing it…it’s worthwhile, we love it!
I agree! And, it was fun and educational.
Mimi, this is a great post! I’ve seen them cleaned before and I’ve seen them frozen, but I’ve never thought to do it myself. It’s time I get brave enough and do it myself!
I thought it was fun and interesting!
i’m a little scared of cooking and cleaning squid, but this is super helpful! i think once i get pass the feel of them in my hands, i’d be okay (;
Hahahaha! If you love eating them, that should be enough motivation!
Lovely post Mimi. Great to see you getting your hands dirty. Squid is not for the squeamish.
It is well worth the effort.
It definitely is worth the effort. I’m not squeamish but I want nothing to do with killing animals. Although I do fish, so that makes little sense, doesn’t it?!!
Excelllent tutorial, and awesome photography! I do sorta live near a coast (though I just moved one state away and am seriously hunting for some good local seafood…)
Arrrggghhhhh. I understand that predicament!
Great tutorial. I love squid, cooked hard and fast or low and slow.
Love the texture of squid but never imagined so much work involved. Gorgeous salad!
It went pretty fast once I figured out what to do!
Your are so talented. Now I know why I buy it frozen! That backbone looked wicked!
I don’t know if that’s talent, but thanks!
Excellent tutorial, Mimi! Luckily, even though I live in a desert and a landlocked state, I can get pretty good squid anytime. Only once in my life have I had to clean it. Your words described it perfectly for someone who’s never done it. Brava!
Thank you! You’re lucky you can get it, seriously!
Looks wonderful ! excellent tutorial Mimi! thanks
I love squid—but then again, I don’t know any Italian-Americans who don’t…
Ordering online has become a real lifesaver for me, too. Not with seafood, which I can fortunately get easily here on the east coast, but with some Italian specialty products that you can’t find in stores, and even other products like leaf lard that *should* be easy to find–in my opinion at least–but have fallen of a fashion.
Leaf lard? I hope that’s a typo!
Yes! Fresh squid does not exist in Minnesota (nor should it). Never thought about getting fish on line. Food for thought. (Fish for thought.) Grand tutorial.
Thank you Claudia!
What a great tutorial! Not sure I’ll have the courage to try it, but I do love squid so who knows?!
I had no idea cleaning and preparing squid was so involved! I can get it fresh where I live but, never have! I will definitely give cooking it a try!
Excellent tutorial. We live in one of those lucky areas and have squid at the fishmonger regularly. But, if you purchase pre-cleaned squid, they are much costlier. So, we clean our own and I’m glad to report that your technique is spot on.
Oh, thanks! Good to know!
I love squid. Especially as a risotto. You can clean it while I cook it perhaps 😉
Thank you for the info 👍🏻
You are so welcome!