Shit You Should Know: How to Gut and Clean Squid


The Bookery Cook has been one of our favourite food sites for a while, so we were pretty stoked to have them offer some delicious advice. For this edition of Shit You Should Know they showed us how to approach squid without being covered in ocean vomit.

Squid are one of the coolest and tastiest sea creatures around, and a very versatile cephalopod (same family as octopus and cuttlefish). You can freeze it and shave it, slice it really thinly and have in a broth, batter and fry it, stuff it, or marinate and grill it.

A cheap and sustainable option for seafood dining, you can buy squid at supermarkets and fishmongers, either precleaned or whole. If you’re buying it prepared you miss out on the tentacles (best bit IMHO), the wings, the ink and limit the flexibility in what you can prepare. Buying it whole allows you to embrace the nose to tail (or beak to suckers) food philosophy and use these bonus parts to create tasty snacks or snazzy meals. The ink sacks of squid can be used to colour rice (think Arròs negre), marble pasta or colour bread (think squid ink buns with fried tentacles, lettuce & mayo, yes please!).

Plus as with all Shit You Should Know, there is the sense of empowerment in being able to prepare it yourself. Nothing is more satisfying than when your fishmonger asks if you would like him to clean the squid you reply, “No, its fine I’ll clean it myself” (and you are actually telling the truth).

The inedible bits are the eyes, head, guts and beak/quill. The bits you’re after are the body, tentacles, fins, ink sac and skin (although you may prefer to remove this).

Before you start make sure you set up your workstation close to a sink with a clean chopping board and a sharp knife or two ­ ideally a little paring knife (ie. a small knife with a plain edge blade 6­8cm long) for cleaning, and a standard kitchen knife for chopping.

  1. Remove the head (called the “mantle” ­ where the eyes and tentacles are) from the body by gently pulling away from the body cavity


  2. Begin to cut the tentacles away from the guts by slicing just below the eyes.


  3. Check the center of the tentacles and remove the beak. The easiest way to do this is to squeeze the head. (Don’t stress too much the you burst the main squid ink sack in the head. These are often knocked in transport and can be burst or damaged before you get your hands on them).


  4. Discard the guts of the squid and set the aside the tentacles.


  5. Feel inside the body for the quill (it resembles a shard of plastic). Pull it out of the squid and discard.


  6. Rinse inside the body of the squid in cold water.


  7. Pull the fins (wing­like flaps) from the body. The best way to do this is to lift up the wing and run your thumb down the part where the wing is connected to the body. If you push with enough force, the wing should come away with ease, leaving the main body tube intact.


  8. Once the wings have been removed, pull the purplish skin from the ears and body to clean the squid ­ leaving only the white meat. You should be able to pull it away with your fingers, but if it is too slippery, use a clean and dry kitchen cloth to brush away the skin. Repeat this process for the wings.
  9. You should now have a full body, tentacles, and fins. If you want to keep squid tube to use in rings, leave as. Alternatively, to make the squid one flat piece (for grilling or frying) Slice down the center seam line of one side being careful not to slice through. Behold the squid ink sacks! Keep these for later use.

    Now you’ve tackled this slippery little sucker, here’re a few recipes from our blog that use squid in many ways:


­ As tubes : Our Get your Freekah on: Freekah stuffed Squid



­  As rings: Throw the rings and tentacles into a plastic bag of rice flour, salt and pepper. Fry in hot oil for your own salt and pepper squid . Or using in something like Laksa or Paella



As pieces: Cut down one side of the body to open it out and score the inside lightly in a cross­hatch pattern ­ great for marinating/grilling/frying.

­  Use it all: Squid Tentacle Burger with Squid ink buns.



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