Why Cleaning Squid is Important

Not all parts of a squid are edible. Like any whole seafood, care is needed in preparing this popular delicacy for the table. Squid cleaning is soon demystified when you know what parts need removing for cooking and why it’s important to do so. You can clean squid easily in just a few minutes. It will save you money too, because whole squid is more economical to buy than the pre-cut, packaged and frozen alternatives.

Cleaning a squid to remove its inedible parts

The head, eyes, internal organs, beak and pen (or quill) of the squid are inedible. These are easily removed in just a few simple steps. It’s important to note why and how some parts that are often discarded during squid cleaning also have the option of being cooked. These are

Ink sac

A squid’s ink sac is usually removed with the internal organs. If the sac is kept intact the ink can be added to your seafood sauce. Anyone cleaning squid at home can use this gourmet ingredient just like the restaurants do, instead of throwing it away.


Squid fins are soft and shaped like wings. They are pulled away from the mantle by hand during squid cleaning. If making calamari, for example, the fins would be discarded, but they are edible. To prepare fins for cooking, trim the hardened strip from their edges.


On small squid, the skin can be tender enough to be left on, but the larger the squid, the tougher the membrane becomes as it cooks. Generally the skin is removed during squid cleaning, so if you’re uncertain, peel it off and discard it.


The tentacles are removed with the head when cleaning squid. Though edible, the long, thin tentacles are considered impractical for cooking and should be cut off and thrown away. But the main thick, curly tentacles are edible and tasty. If you set these aside for cooking, there are two simple preparation steps:

- remove the beak by squeezing the base of the tentacles, making it pop out ready to be cut off

- gently scrape the suckers from each tentacle with the blade of a sharp knife

Final tips for Cleaning Squid

Removing the organs and pen usually takes just one movement, but always check inside the mantle to ensure nothing is left behind.

Always have access to cold running water. One reason is in case the ink sac ruptures. This is less likely with small, easily manageable squid, but the bigger the squid, the more ink there is to spill. Also, there may be sand to be washed away if you’re cleaning squid from a fresh catch.

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