How to Clean Squid - Step-By-Step Instructions

  • 01 of 10

    Start With a Whole Squid

    raw squid
    Kidsada Manchinda / Getty Images

    Cleaned squid comes at a premium price in the market. The whole squid is quite economical. Cleaning it yourself is quite easy as you will see from this step-by-step photo tutorial. Begin with the whole squid, either fresh or frozen. If frozen, let it thaw in the refrigerator before beginning.

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  • 02 of 10

    Remove Head From Squid Body

    how to clean squid calamari recipe image graphic photo seafood cuttlefish receipt
    Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

    Grasp the squid tail in one hand and the head in the other. Firmly pull apart with a slight twisting motion. The head and innards should easily slip out of the body.

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  • 03 of 10

    Head, Innards, and Body Tube

    how to clean squid calamari recipe seafood cuttlefish receipt
    Separated body and head. Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

    The squid head and innards have now been removed from the squid body tube. The tentacles and body tube are edible. The head behind the tentacles and the innards are discarded. The ink from the sac is a gourmet's delight and is used as an added flavoring in many recipes.

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  • 04 of 10

    Squid Ink Sac Removal

    harvest squid ink sac how to clean squid calamari recipe seafood cuttlefish receipt
    Harvest squid ink sac. Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

    Squid ink is used by many gourmet chefs to add additional flavor to recipes. If you are lucky enough to find squid ink for sale at a gourmet market, be prepared to pay a premium price. However, if you clean your own squid, you will have it at your fingertips. A little bit goes a long way. A few drops added to the liquid in your recipe will be sufficient to both color and flavor a dish, especially rice and risottos.

    The squid ink sac is located in the innards. It looks like a black vein, and it is...MORE easily removed with your fingernail. To get to the ink, puncture the ink sac and squeeze it into a tablespoon of water, wine, or other cooking liquid.

    Be forearmed when harvesting squid ink. Wear gloves, an apron, and protect porous surfaces such as the cutting board. The ink does stain. It is particularly unsightly when it gets under your fingernails. Tiny amounts of squid ink are also located behind the eyes.

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  • 05 of 10

    Cut Tentacles

    squid tentacles calamari recipe seafood cuttlefish receipt
    Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

    The squid tentacles are completely edible and especially good when flash-fried as in fried calamari or in seafood. Place your knife just behind the eyes of the squid and cut straight down.

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  • 06 of 10

    Remove Beak From Tentacles

    squid calamari beak tentacles how to clean recipe seafood cuttlefish receipt
    Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

    If you plan on eating the squid tentacles, you must remove the beak. The squid beak is a bony piece of inedible cartilage. It is located at the base of the tentacles where they connect to the head of the squid. Once the tentacles are cut from the head, squeeze the connective tissue at the top and the beak will easily come out.

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  • 07 of 10

    Tail Tube and Cartilage

    squid calamari tail tube cartilage recipe seafood cuttlefish receipt
    Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

    Once the head and tentacles are removed from the squid, the tail portion remains. The tail tube portion contains a thin, clear sliver of cartilage. This cartilage is also known as the cuttle or cuttlebone, hence its family name of cuttlefish.

    The cartilage almost looks like a super-thin shard of glass, as you can see in the photo. It is inedible and must be removed. Simply grasp the cartilage with your fingers and pull it from the squid body tube. It should release fairly easily.

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  • 08 of 10

    Skin Membrane Removal

    squid calamari tail tube skin recipe seafood cuttlefish receipt
    Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

    Although the dark, spotty skin of the squid is edible, most cooks choose to remove it for a more appealing presentation. The skin will easily separate from the flesh as you can see in the photo above. Once you have the skin removed, thoroughly wash the inside of the squid body tube, using your finger to pull out any residual innards. Pat dry before proceeding.

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  • 09 of 10

    Cutting into Squid Rings

    Cleaning squid and making calamari (Part of series 9 of 10)
    Simon Wheeler Ltd / Getty Images

    The cleaned squid body may be stuffed whole or cut into rings as for the popular fried calamari recipe. Rings are easily sliced by cutting crosswise as pictured. The entire tail portion is edible, including the fin section at the end. If you want only rings or tentacles for fried calamari, do save the tail end for or chowders.

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  • 10 of 10

    Squid Parts Diagram

    squid calamari parts diagram recipe seafood cuttlefish receipt
    Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

    This reference diagram shows all the different parts of the squid. Now that you have learned how to clean the whole squid, move along to learn about selection, storage, and other squid cooking tips before trying one of the many recipes.

    More About Squid and Calamari:

    Squid Selection and Storage
    Squid and Calamari Cooking Tips and Hints
    How to Clean Squid and Harvest Squid Ink
    What Is Calamari? FAQ