Serious Eats

How to Clean Fresh Squid

The things we do in the name of food.

I came across my first squid long before I went to culinary school. My Italian family celebrates Christmas Eve with a 7-fish celebration, so for a few days before the holiday, the kitchen sink (and surrounding countertops, cutting boards, and colanders) would transform into a lagoon of fish and shellfish needing to be cleaned. Even with years of onlooking under my belt (let's be honest—Mom's still the queen of the family kitchen), whole squid still intimidates me, mainly because... well, it's ugly as sin, and ten times as slimy.

Nonetheless, the advantages of cutting your own calamari outnumber the horrors. For one, DIY calamari is worlds less expensive—I paid just over six dollars (six!) for five fat, whole squid that yielded me about three to four cups of finished calamari.

Also (and how cool is this?) cleaning your own gives you the freedom to harvest the ink sac. Again, it doesn't evoke the loveliest of images (or, I'll be honest, smells), but the excitement kicks in when you're squeezing beautiful black ink out of the little pearly capsule. Later, you can add the ink to a stewing liquid in which to cook the calamari, or use it to make a squid ink pasta sauce or risotto.

And, because I'm shameless—perk number three is feeling like a total badass when you ask the fishmonger to give those babies to you whole. You might get a funny look, and an offer (or two) to have them cleaned by the pro behind the counter, but a perfectly appropriate answer: Do I look like a sucker to you, sir?

Check out the slideshow for the gory details.

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