Galley Notes; How to Dress a Squid

So, you’ve managed to convince some cephalopods that your lure looked tasty and now you’ve got a bucket full o’ squid. Visions of calamari are dancing in your head, but just how to you get from whole animal to delicious, deep fried morsels?

“Dressing” a squid does not involve turtle necks or tutus, it is just a fancy word for cleaning, gutting and preparing an animal for eating. The great thing about squid is that there isn’t anything too stinky, slimy, bloody, nasty or gross about cleaning them. Even people queasy about handle a dead chicken will probably find squid rather benign.

After 50 odd cephalopods Steve made cleaning them look dead easy, and it is. Here’s he fool proof method for dressing a squid.


A sharp knife, a good cutting board, a bucket of sea water, maybe an old tshirt and a cold beer.

STEP 1. Rinse your squid off in clean salt water and place neatly on cutting board. It is generally recommended that you use salt, not fresh, water to clean any kind of edible sea creature.


STEP 2. Cut the tentacles off just below the eyes.


If you do this correctly you should be able to invert the tentacles and pop out the round muscle that contains the beak. Set the tentacles aside.


STEP 3. With your fingers find the tip of the “pen” that is located between the head and the mantle, or body, of the squid. You should feel something akin to the cartilage in the tip of your nose. Run your fingers all the way the pen toward the pointy end of the mantle, separating it from the flesh as you go.

STEP 4. With your fingers still inside the squid try and grab all the fleshy bits, and the pen, and pull it out and away from the mantle. Be careful as the ink sac can sometimes still contain ink and will make a bit of a mess if squeezed (but if you’re anything like me you’re already covered in ink from catching the little buggers, so no big deal.)

If you successfully get all the goo out in one pull than you’ve completely gutted the squid. You can discard the guts but if you’re a keen fisherman cut off the head/eyes portion as this make great bait.


STEP 5. Now how do you want to cook the squid; steaks, rings, whole? It’s up to you but we prefer to cook squid steaks and dice afterwards if desired. So with the flat side of the mantle on the board insert a sharp knife and cut the mantle, top to bottom, through one side. This give you an opportunity to scrap and clean any stray bits still attached to the inside of the mantle and give it a good rinse in your bucket before cutting through the second side.

STEP 6. With your fingers scrap and pinch and pull the very thin skin from the white flesh. You can do this while the mantle is whole but it seems a little easier if the skin is cut first. Also you can totally skip this step. I am a little fussy ( can hear Steve rolling his eyes?!) and like my squid totally clean, I think it makes a difference to the taste. If you don’t mind a slightly stronger “fishy” taste then no need to bother with this very fiddly step.


What you’ll be left with is a plate of tentacles and cleaned mantles and a stain of saliva on your shirt. (Don’t worry, no one will notice amidst all the ink stains.)


Squid will last 2-3 days in an air tight container uncooked in the fridge.

It also freezes very well, with little change to the texture of the flesh when it is thawed. Chances are, if you have eaten squid that you haven’t caught yourself it had been frozen before it hit the deep fryer.

And speaking of deep fryers, I know the secret to perfect calamari. I spent a summer working the line at an Italian restaurant and was in charge of cooking the calamari, among a myriad of other things. But since it frying requires a lot of oil and makes a fair bit of mess we tend not to bother with calamari onboard.

Instead Steve flash fries the squid steaks in a lightly oiled pan, only 30-40 seconds each side. Cook squid for too long and the meat will seize so you end seafood flavoured chewing gum. So very, very disappointing after all that hard work.

For lunch the other while underway I concocted a Thai inspired Squid Noodle Salad

Using some left over spaghetti, fresh local veggies and the squid that Steve had just finished cooking on the BBQ. We sat in the cockpit in silence eating but for the occasional slurp of noodles and snuff of a chili induced runny nose; all signs of a good meal.

Thai Inspired Squid Noodle Salad


2 Cups Leftover cooked and cooled noodles (I had spaghetti on hand but Asian style egg or rice noodles would be tasty)

½ Thinly sliced onion

Handful Green beans, sliced

1 Lrg Red, Green or Yellow Peppers, Thinly Sliced

1 bunch of Watercress, Roughly chopped

6 Sm to Medium Squid, cleaned, steaked and flash fried and thinly sliced

Handful of Cherry tomatoes, quarters


2 Tbps Soya Sauce

1” Ginger, grated

2 Garlic, grated

1-2 Limes, Juiced

2-4 Birds Eye Chilies to taste


In a large bowl combine soya sauce, garlic, ginger, lime juice and chilies adjusting to taste. Add noodles, onions, peppers, beans and squid and toss to coat. When ready to serve add water cress and tomatoes. Serve with wedge of lime and a cold beer!

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