01 of 07
Start With Fresh, Whole Abalone
Before you can clean an abalone, you need to get an abalone. Commercial fishing or diving for abalone is illegal on the West Coast, where abalone live and grow. Recreational abalone diving is tightly regulated where it is allowed. To meet the demand from people who love abalone but aren't fit (and crazy) enough to dive for them, clever folks have figured out how to farm abalone. Abalone grow slowly and the process of raising them is a laborious one (see a Visit to an Abalone Farm for... details).
In short, if you have a fresh abalone, either you dove for it, someone who must love you dove for it, or you spent a pretty penny buying a farmed one. In any case, you'll be happy to learn that cleaning it and preparing it to be cooked is a surprisingly easy process.Continue to 2 of 7 below.
02 of 07
Pry the Abalone From Its ShellClearly, the abalone needs to be taken out of its shell. These gastropod mollusks are more or less one giant muscle clinging for life to that shell, so getting them out in one piece has a method to it:
Use a wide, flat wooden spatula or similarly thin, blunt tool and work it between the abalone and its shell. The abalone attaches to its shell with a solid round muscle at the bottom, everything else is just clinging to the shell. Work open a section between the abalone and the shell, and then... firmly but gently work the spatula around and along the shell until the abalone detaches. Push against the shell with the tool rather than the abalone for easiest release and to keep the abalone whole.
Note: As you can see, I like to do this in a sink for the easiest of clean-ups.Continue to 3 of 7 below.
03 of 07
Remove the Abalone From Its ShellOnce you've pried the abalone from its shell, slide it out. Set the shell aside - you can scrub it clean and air-dry it for decorative use, if you like.
Again, I like to do this work in the sink. The next step is removing the guts from the abalone and I like to keep that clean-up quick and easy.Continue to 4 of 7 below.
04 of 07
Cut Off the Viscera from the AbaloneI must admit it, separating the meat of the abalone from its guts is the part of cleaning abalone that gets a little funky. Because I can get a bit grossed out by things like guts and viscera and slime, I've figured out a way to do it quickly and with a minimal amount of fuss and grossness:
Hold the main body of abalone and let the viscera (a.k.a. the guts) hang down over a sink or bowl. Use a sharp knife to cut off the viscera.
Discard the viscera.* I recommend using the food disposal, if you... have one, or enclosing it in 2 plastic bags to avoid stinky trash.
*In some Asian cuisines, abalone viscera are prized and used in soups and stews. If you or someone you know likes abalone guts, by all means, don't discard them!Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Scrub the Abalone CleanWild abalone tends to have a layer of... black stuff on its sides. Part of this is just the edge of the abalone, and some is a film. You want to remove both parts because it's icky looking and bitter tasting.
The quickest solution is to simply cut off the black edges, and it's the method many people use. I don't get so many abalones, however, that I'm usually willing to sacrifice a single nibble more of the abalone meat than I need to. So, I tend to take a bit more time and scrub... off the black film along the sides of the abalone.Continue to 6 of 7 below.
06 of 07
Cut Off the Tough Edges From the AbaloneWhile they are perfectly edible, if a tad rough and tough, most people are going to enough their abalone more if you cut off and discard the curled edges (a.k.a. the "lips") and the tough, pointed end.Continue to 7 of 7 below.
07 of 07
Check it out! From an in-shell prehistoric-looking monster shellfish to a whole, cleaned abalone all clean and pretty and ready to cook.
For something a bit more delicate, try Abalone With Lemongrass.