How To Clean Squid (Pos katharizete to kalamari)

You don’t have to be able to identify internal organs to clean squid. Thank goodness! I always feel inferior when a recipe for lobster tells me to “reserve the tomalley.” What’s the tomalley anyway? Fortunately there’s just goop and plastic inside squid, and you get to throw it all away without thinking about it. I’m getting a little ahead of myelf, though.
Squid, ready to be cleaned.
You may be able to buy fresh squid, or you may only find frozen. Fortunately the quality of frozen seafood is really good these days, at least in the U.S. In fact, it’s better than most “fresh” seafood. Based on her past experiences with substandard kalamarakia, Zoe didn’t want me to cook with frozen squid, but that was all I could get, and afterward we both decided it was excellent. Obviously it’s a different story if you live within sight of the sea and have access to truly fresh seafood.

Okay, so thaw the squid if it’s frozen. Notice that the squid consists of a conical body topped with a tentacled head. Pull the head off, then cut off the tentacles just in front of the eyes. Watch out, the eyeballs pop! Keep the tentacles to eat but throw the rest of the head away.

If you want to keep the squid bodies whole for stuffing, you’ll need to turn them inside out to clean them. Otherwise you can slit them open lengthwise to get at the innards. Inside the body you’ll find two or three colors of goop, and a strip of plastic (the plastic is actually cartilage, but it looks like plastic). Remove all this with your fingers.

Turn the bodies back right-side-out and peel off the skin. Rinse the bodies and tentacles thoroughly, and you’re done!

A three pound block of frozen squid.

At my grocery store I can only buy squid frozen in solid 3 pound blocks. It’s impossible to break the blocks apart, so I have to thaw and use all of it at once, but there’s way too much of it! So I do one of two things:

1. I make a double/triple batch of Calamari Cooked in Wine and freeze the extras in meal-sized portions.


2. I use half the squid meat to fry up a batch of Fried Calamari. The other half of the cleaned squid meat goes into the refrigerator, and I use it the next day to make Calamari Cooked in Wine.

By the way, notice how the block of squid is thawing in a large metal pan? This is a surprisingly fast way of thawing frozen meats. Metal is a much better heat conductor than air, so the pan acts like a radiator in reverse. It works best on fairly flat slabs of meat that can make good contact with the metal. It doesn’t work so well on round or really thick cuts because they don’t have a high enough proportion of surface area in contact with the metal to do much good. It also helps if you turn the slab over occasionally to thaw from both sides. Try it, you might be surprised how well this works; I know I was surprised when I tried it.


  1. Comment by Yogurt Maker

    Seems easy enought thanks for the advice 😉

    Yogurt Maker’s last blog post..Tribest Yolife Yogurt Maker

  2. Comment by fresh seafood

    This is an excellent tutorial. I tolerate frozen seafood when necessary, but nothing beats fresh! We sometimes have local boats here that bring in fresh loligo squid in winter.

  3. Comment by Phuong Nguyen

    Hi there!
    Ho­ are you!
    I ­want to buy amount squid.You please email me.

  4. Pingback by Squid « Things that Fizz & Stuff

    […] However, squid rings, battered or crumbed have proved acceptable, if a little rubbery, for most. Squid, an ugly beast – image: Mama’s Tavern […]

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