Abalone is a large marine gastropod mollusk (a.k.a. a sea snail) with extremely rich, flavorful, highly prized meat. It is so highly prized, in fact, that abalone were brought to the brink of extinction on the West Coast, where they were once so plentiful that they could be simply picked off rocks at low tide. Careful management has brought population levels back a bit and some recreational harvesting is allowed. For those of us not brave enough or geographically situated to dive for abalone,... farmed abalone is increasingly available.
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How to Cook Yummy Yummy Abalone
Once tenderized, abalone is best described as a cross between scallops and foie gras, in a good way. It needs tenderizing (or long, slow cooking to tenderize it) or it has the texture of a dried-out tire. There are plenty of great ways to cook abalone, but a sure-fire method is to slice it, tenderize the slices, dredge them in flour, and pan-fry them.
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Where to Get Abalone
For the largest and best wild abalone, you need to dive for them or know someone who will. It is illegal to sell wild abalone and diving is only legal within defined areas with a license and following strict rules. Each state has its own regulations:
- California Abalone Diving Information
- Oregon Abalone Diving Information
- It is illegal to harvest any abalone in Washington State (check for updates to the Washington State Abalone Harvest Rules)
- Alaska Fishery Regulations
For everyone else, there are... several abalone farms in California and Hawaii. The Monterey Abalone Company has been growing abalone under the piers in downtown Monterey since 1996 and sells sustainably raised red abalone live, shipped overnight. See how abalone are grown at an aquaculture farm on California's Central Coast.
03 of 05
You can find a lot of ways to pry a whole abalone out of its shell. Screwdrivers and crowbars are frequently mentioned. A simple wide, flat, wooden spatula works wonders for gently releasing an abalone from its shell.
The abalone attaches to its shell with a solid round muscle at the bottom, everything else is just clinging to the shell. Open a section between the abalone and the shell by working the spatula between the non-attached flesh and the shell until you hit the muscle that is attached to... the shell. Then work the spatula around and along the between the muscle and 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.
04 of 05
This step-by-step guide to cleaning abalone shows you how to get the whole abalone from its shell, remove its viscera, and cut or scrub off the black edges to end up with a whole, cleaned abalone.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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How to Tenderize Abalone
There are a couple ways to tenderize the potentially tough flesh of succulent abalone:
The first, and most common way is to gently but thoroughly pound each slice of abalone with a meat tenderizer or the back of a large spoon.
A second option is to pound the entire cleaned abalone. This can be done by wrapping the cleaned abalone in a clean towel and pounding it with a baseball bat or similar piece of wood or pounding the wrapped abalone against a hard surface, being careful to pound gently to... avoid tearing too much of the abalone flesh.
A final way to tenderize abalone is in the cooking, by braising or stewing it.