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How to Cook Calamari (Squid), With Recipes

Updated on July 16, 2016
Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon has been cooking since childhood. He loves above all to take fresh ingredients and combine them in tasty and hopefully original ways.

Pan-fried calamari (squid) on a bacon-and-lettuce salad is just one of the recipes you will find on this page.
Pan-fried calamari (squid) on a bacon-and-lettuce salad is just one of the recipes you will find on this page.

Different Ways to Cook Calamari (Squid)

Calamari do not require a lot of cooking. Calamari should be cooked very quickly, otherwise they are likely to become tough and unpalatable. There are, however, a great many ways in which calamari can be prepared, cooked and served, and the small, deep-fried calamari rings you may have seen are by no means the only way to enjoy this delicious cephalopod. This page first shows you how to prepare calamari for cooking, and then provides cooking and serving suggestions, allowing you to enjoy this delicious and underrated seafood ingredient to the full.

Frozen Calamari

A great many types of squid from around the world are called "calamari," often because "calamari" is thought to look more appealing on restaurant menus than "squid." The calamari used on this page are exclusively the small ones from the Pacific Ocean, meaning that a great many people will have access to them only in their frozen form.

Frozen calamari are not expensive, but their popularity as bait with saltwater fishermen means that some care has to be exercised. Calamari are sold in boxes like the ones pictured here both for human food and as fishing bait. A box of calamari bought from fishing tackle shops or stores should have written on it, "Not fit for human consumption." Heed this message, as calamari intended for bait are likely to have been frozen for a long time and perhaps prepared in conditions which do not take full account of hygiene.

Calamari for food can be found in larger supermarkets, particularly speciality ones, such as Chinese. They should always be defrosted completely at room temperature—or in a bowl of cold water, which will help speed up the thawing process—prior to being prepared and cooked.

Calamari will be frozen in a block
Calamari will be frozen in a block
Defrosting the calamari squid
Defrosting the calamari squid

How to Clean Calamari

The precise way in which calamari are cleaned and prepared will vary slightly dependant upon how it is ultimately to be cooked. The initial stages of the procedure should be the same, however, in almost all instances.

Hold the body of the squid in one hand and the head in the other. Pinch gently between the head and the body and apply gentle but steady pressure to pull the head and guts out of the body core. Set aside.

There is a plastic-like "feather" running the length of the body. Pinch this at the wide end of the body, pull free and discard. Remove the thin, membraneous skin from the body by rubbing with the ball of your thumb. Gently peel the wings from the body (though do not discard, as they are perfectly edible.) Pinch the pointed end of the body between thumb and forefinger and very gently squeeze out any remaining innards. Wash under running cold water. Whether the body is now sliced into rings or not will depend on the recipe being prepared.

The head and innards should be laid flat on a chopping board. Carefully cut just above the eyes at the tentacles end, trying not to pierce the eyes. Discard the eyes and innards. Pull of and discard the two long white tentacles. The beak should be removed by gently squeezing the base of the tentacles and pulling it free.

The excellent video below shows and summarises this process in full.

Cleaning calamari (squid)
Cleaning calamari (squid)
Calamari ready to be sliced into rings or stuffed
Calamari ready to be sliced into rings or stuffed

Video Showing How to Clean a Calamari

1. Pan-Fried Calamari with Lettuce-and-Bacon Salad

Ingredients (Per Serving)

1 calamari
2 rashers of bacon
3 lettuce leaves
Salt and pepper
Sunflower oil for frying

Method

The main body and tentacles of the calamari should be prepared as above. A pair of kitchen scissors are best for cutting down the length of the body and opening it out flat as shown. A very sharp knife is then used to make diagonal scores on the body as can be seen best in the diagram. Note that virtually no pressure should be applied as you do not want to cut all the way through the delicate flesh.

The opened body of the calamari is lightly scored with a sharp knife
The opened body of the calamari is lightly scored with a sharp knife
Diagram better depicts how to score the calamari body
Diagram better depicts how to score the calamari body

Method (Continued)

Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and arrange them on a plate as a bed. Put the bacon under an overhead grill to cook for a couple of minutes each side. Add some oil to a pan and cook the calamari tentacles for about a minute before adding the body on the scored side. Season with salt and pepper. Turn after thirty seconds and the scores will cause the body to roll up as it finishes cooking.

Serve as shown above to create the perfect impression of a whole calamari.

2. Mushroom-Stuffed Calamari with Tomato Sauce

Ingredients (Per Serving)

2 calamari (squid)
1 14oz can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
1 clove of garlic
2 closed cup mushrooms
Butter for frying
Salt and pepper
Flat-leafed parsley for garnish

Method

Put two (unmedicated!) wooden toothpicks or cocktail sticks in to a bowl of cold water to soak for at least ten minutes.

Pour the tomatoes in to a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. This should see a lush sauce start to form.

Melt a little butter in a frying pan and stir fry the calamari tentacles and wings for a couple of minutes. Remove to a plate to cool. Dice the mushrooms and garlic and stir fry in the same pan (more butter may be required) for two to three minutes. Finely chop the calamari tentacles and wings, mix with the mushroom and garlic, season and allow to cool enough to handle.

Very carefully, use the stuffing mixture to stuff the calamari bodies. This is best done by hand. Do not overstuff or the bodies may burst during cooking. Use the cocktail sticks/toothpicks to loosely seal the calamari at the open end before placing them carefully in to the simmering sauce. Cover and allow to cook gently for five or six minutes.

Calamari offcuts are fried in butter
Calamari offcuts are fried in butter
Mushrooms, garlic and calamari offcuts are fried in butter
Mushrooms, garlic and calamari offcuts are fried in butter
Calamari are stuffed with mushroom mixture and sealed with toothpicks
Calamari are stuffed with mushroom mixture and sealed with toothpicks

Method (Continued)

Carefully remove the cocktail sticks when the dish has been plated and garnsih with the chopped parsley.

This recipe is perfect as a starter but the quantities can easily be increased to serve it as a main meal, perhaps with a green leaf salad and/or some fresh, crusty bread.

3. Dab à la Meunière with Calamari Rings

Calamari can make an excellent accompaniment to other forms of fish and seafood, as these next two recipes will show. In this first recipe, it forms part of the sauce for a pan-fried dab.

Ingredients (Per Serving)

1 whole dab
2 small calamari
2oz butter
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp freshly chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Method

The dab should be gutted and the fins removed with a pair of scissors. Melt a little bit of the butter in a frying pan, pat the dab on both sides in seasoned flour and fry for three to four minutes over a medium heat until cooked. Transfer to a heated plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Wipe the pan with kitchen towel and melt the remainder of the butter. Slice the calamari in to rings and add to the pan with the lemon juice. Cook on a fairly high heat for two minutes. Season, stir through the parsley and spoon over the dab for service.

Dab is floured and fried in butter
Dab is floured and fried in butter
Calamari rings are fried in butter, lemon juice and parsley
Calamari rings are fried in butter, lemon juice and parsley

4. Baked Whole Plaice with Calamari-Tentacle Salad

Ingredients

1 whole plaice
2 calamari tentacle pieces
1 medium tomato
3 lettuce leaves
½ small white onion
Little bit of butter
Salt and pepper

Method

Preheat your oven to 375F/190C. Wash the gutted plaice and sit it on a sheet of tinfoil. Add a little butter and season. Wrap the plaice securely but loosely in the foil, place on to a baking tray and in to the oven for fifteen minutes.

Add a little more butter to a small frying pan. Put on to a medium heat and stir fry the calamari tentacles for two to three minutes.

Thinly slice the onion and shred the lettuce. Mix together, season and make to form a bed on a plate. Add the plaice and the calamari tentacle and half the tomato as a final garnish.

Plaice is seasoned and baked in foil with a little butter
Plaice is seasoned and baked in foil with a little butter
Squid tentacles are fried in butter
Squid tentacles are fried in butter

Are You a Fan of Calamari?

Hopefully this page has provided you with some new ideas for cooking and enjoying calamari. Thank you for taking the time to browse through it. Any comments or feedback which you have may be left in the space below.

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    • Ancillotti profile image

      Ancillotti 5 years ago from Brasil, Vitoria - ES

      I must confess that thinking about eating Calamari gives me a certain disgust ... but you explained it well and looking at the recipe she prepared the dish until it looks a bit unappetizing. Maybe I'll try the recipe sometime. Thanks for sharing! Up and useful!

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Thank you, Ancilloti. I very much hope you do try it. There are so many ways in which calamari can be prepared to suit different tastes that anyone who likes fish and seafood is sure to find one they enjoy.

    • borge_009 profile image

      borge_009 5 years ago from Philippines

      wow. I only know how to eat it but after reading this maybe I will try t cook one.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Go for it borge_009. It is not difficult and is really tasty. Thanks for the visit and the comment.

    • Russell-D profile image

      Russell-D 5 years ago from Southern Ca.

      Calamari is my food of choice, be it Italy, Beijing, Tokyo, Greece or Los Angeles. Each prepares it with seasonings from their land and cooking style, yet in all cases, bar none, it;s always wonderful, especially with a good, chilly beer. Be it appetizer or main course, Calamari on the menu means that's what I eat that meal. Where we don't eat it raw from scratch is at home. There, packaged and ready for the pan works. Gordon, I'll read your always great recipes to see if we'll change our mind. David Russell

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Thank you very much, David. I share your love of calamari and wish more people would actually try it, rather than be put off by its appearance and the simple concept. It is actually also one of my most favoured sea fishing baits, so I win both ways!

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