Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: How to clean and prepare squid for cooking. 

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Cleaning and preparing your own squid is actually very easy. They might be akin to sea monsters and other unnamed murky creatures (cuttlefish, you're next!), but they're delicious and should feel as approachable as they truly are.

Maybe there's a frost-bitten bag of squid rings in your freezer that you're looking to replace, or maybe you're looking to perfect your recipe for squid salad and fried calamari.

Either way, there are advantages: whole, uncleaned squid are cheaper, you can control the cut and size of your pieces (fun with cookie cutters?), you can harvest your own squid ink, and you’ll have little bits of leftovers you can save for making stock.

Here’s how to start.

Cut the head off of the body.

Inside the body cavity, there is a quill -- a cartilaginous item that acts as a backbone for this spineless cephalopod. To remove this, just feel around at the opening of the squid, and find the end of the quill.

Grab and pull out slowly. Feel around the squid body to make sure you got all of it.

Cut just underneath the eyes. Everything above the eyes can be thrown out, or used to make seafood stock (add some shrimp shells!).  

Spread open the tentacles; in the middle of them, there is a beak that you will want to remove.

Pinch around it and pull off. It should come out pretty easily.

Your tentacles are done!

If you cut the head off, as we did, you’ll need to remove the rest of the insides. Many people use the back of a knife to push it all out. It may take a few swipes.

For an easier, “hands on” approach, just reach in and grab everything.

Inside here, you will find a small glossy ink sac. You can save this to make your own squid ink pasta, add it to a risotto, or use it in a Bloody Caesar. 

Additionally, if you are going to cut the body into strips or squares, you can slip your knife into the body, make a long slit, and then pull the insides out. 

Pull off the skin (optional, as it is edible). Many people suggest that you pull the skin off, but there are others that don't find it necessary. We pulled it off for this tutorial.

And pull off the wings -- or ears. The part of the wing that connects to the body should be cut off, as it gets tough. There is a little bit of skin on these as well.

More: How to Cook and Clean Shellfish

The hard part is over!

Now, you can cut the body into rings...

...or strips, or squares.

Or leave it whole to stuff.

Want to use your squid in a recipe?

Try these:
Grilled Squid Salad
Sweet, Spicy Calamari
Wok-Fired Squid with Greens

Do you have any tips for prepping squid? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

You can find me delicately poaching eggs for cheddar grits, or elbow deep in a bag of Cheetos and Utz Crab Chips, but most of all, you can find me eating.

1 Comment

paizley May 5, 2015
When using small squid with tubes measuring 4-5 inches long, the I only parts I discard are the quills and beaks if I'm making a slower cooked, simmered dish. Everything will be exceedingly tender, even the eyes! If I'm making something where the squid is cooked 2 minutes or less, I will cut off the head but still leave the insides. I prefer to cut my squid into thin strips as opposed to rounds and always leave the skin on. Whole pickled squid is one of my new favorites to make and is very easy! I had to devise my own recipe since none of the recipes on-line were what I was looking for. Have fun, happy eating, and don't waste anything!