What Is Calamari and How Do You Cook It?

Calamari Getty 10/28/19

Ever wondered what makes calamari so tasty? You’ve come to the right place: 

What Is Calamari? 

Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated

“Calamari” is the Italian word for “squid.” In English, we use it to refer to squid meat that is eaten. 

You’re likely familiar with fried calamari—you may have even ordered it recently at an Italian restaurant.   

But squid has been consumed for thousands of years all over the world: In Korea it’s served raw, in China it’s dried and shredded, and it’s grilled in the Philippines and parts of Europe. 

In Greek or Turkish cuisines, squid is often stuffed with cheese and vegetables. 

Squid vs. Octopus

Squid Getty 10/28/19

It makes sense that squids are frequently confused with octopi. They’re both cephalopods that live in the ocean and they both have tentacles, so how different can they really be? 

In reality, though, they taste very different when cooked. 

Octopus has a mild taste that is often compared to chicken or pork. Squid meat is tougher than octopus meat, but its smooth skin easily soaks up the flavor of the sauces and butter it’s cooked in. 

Are Squids Poisonous? 

Don’t worry! Enjoying calamari poses virtually no threat to humans. 

While squid ink is poisonous to some of the creature’s predators, it’s much too weak to harm a person. Some restaurants even use squid ink to give pasta a black coloring. 

What Does Calamari Taste Like? 

Calamari meat is firm and sometimes chewy (it should never be rubbery, however). The taste itself is mild and slightly sweet. 

Calamari’s flavor is somewhat hard to pin down, as the tender meat readily absorbs spices it’s marinated in. 

How to Cook Calamari

Fresh squid is available at most seafood markets and frozen squid is available at most grocery stores. You may instinctively turn up your nose to frozen squid, but it actually freezes pretty well. 

Look for squid that’s already been cleaned and prepped. Tackling this step at home is easy, but quite messy. 

Squid is a super versatile seafood, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding recipes. 

Tip: To avoid rubbery calamari, make sure to cook the squid for a short time over high heat or a very long time over low heat. Anything in between will produce an undesirable texture. 

Calamari Recipes

Strozzapreti with Grilled Calamari, Roasted Tomato Sauce, and Crispy Chickpeas

Has all this calamari talk given you a seafood hankering? We’ve got you covered:

  • Strozzapreti with Grilled Calamari, Roasted Tomato Sauce, and Crispy Chickpeas
  • Fried Calamari with Roasted Garlic and Lime Aïoli
  • Grilled Calamari Steaks with Olive and Bean Salad

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