How to Clean Squid

squid on cutting board

The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  • 01 of 09

    Start With Whole Squid

    whole squid on a cutting board

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    Cleaned squid comes at a premium price at the market. Buying a whole squid and cleaning it yourself is an economical option and surprisingly easy. Look for squid that is extremely fresh or frozen solid. If frozen, let thaw completely in the refrigerator and then clean and use immediately.

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  • 02 of 09

    Remove Head From Squid Body

    squid head being removed from body

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    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 09

    Head, Innards, and Body Tube

    separated head and body tube of squid on cutting board

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    The squid head and innards have now been removed from the squid body tube. The tentacles and body tube are edible, while the head behind the tentacles and the innards should be discarded.

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  • 04 of 09

    Squid Ink Sac Removal

    squid ink sack being removed with knife

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    Squid ink is a gourmet's delight and is used as an added flavoring in many recipes. It's sold for a premium price, but you can harvest your own while cleaning a whole squid. 

    The squid ink sac is located in the innards. It looks like a black vein, and it is 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. Tiny amounts of squid ink are also located behind the eyes.

    Be prepared when harvesting squid ink since it stains. Wear gloves, an apron, and protect porous surfaces such as the cutting board. It is particularly unsightly when it gets under your fingernails.

    A little bit goes a long way in recipes. A few drops added to the liquid in your recipe will be sufficient to both color and flavor a dish, especially pastas and risottos.

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  • 05 of 09

    Cut Tentacles

    tentacles being cut off squid with pairing knife

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    The squid tentacles are completely edible and especially good when flash-fried to make calamari. Place your knife just underneath the eyes of the squid and cut straight down.

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  • 06 of 09

    Remove Beak From Tentacles

    beak being removed from tentacles with pairing knife

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    If you plan on eating the squid tentacles, you must remove the beak. The squid beak is a bony piece of inedible cartilage that 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 09

    Tail Tube and Cartilage

    tail tube cartilage being removed from tube tale

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    Once the head and tentacles are removed from the squid, the tail section 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—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 09

    Skin Membrane Removal

    skin being removed from tube tail of squid

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    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 to be peeled away. 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 09

    Cutting Into Squid Rings

    clean tube tail of squid being cut into rings with pairing knife on cutting board

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

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