How to Cook and Serve Calamari

No need to shy away from calamari! This restaurant favorite is equally fantastic cooked at home. If this is your first calamari experience, get prepared for a delightful taste experience. Calamari (Italian for squid) is a mild tasting seafood ingredient that easily absorbs flavor from seasonings or marinades. And, with just a few simple culinary tricks, you can cook and serve calamari like a pro. 


Prep for Tenderness 

One of the main concerns home cooks have when it comes to calamari is overcooking. Cooked calamari should be moderately firm with a tender chew, not rubbery. To aid in keeping your calamari tender there are a couple different options. First option is tenderizing. Gently pound, almost tapping, thawed calamari with a meat mallet, being careful to not to tear or mash. The second option is to briefly marinate (5-10 minutes) the calamari in either buttermilk or lemon juice. The acid helps break down some of those tougher proteins for a more tender outcome. 


Sautéed or Stir Fried Calamari 

The trick with sautéed or stir fried calamari is to cook the squid pieces for a short amount of time over high heat.   

After you’ve tenderized your calamari, gently pat dry with paper towels. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add calamari, and sauté for 30 seconds – 2 minutes or until hot and tender. To further avoid tough or overcooked calamari, sauté or stir fry any additional ingredients or sauces either before or after cooking the calamari.

I like to serve my sautéed or stir fried calamari over rice or pasta. If I am in a rush, nice crusty bread slices or toast points are well suited to sop up all those tasty pan drippings. 


Fried Calamari 

Frying is probably the most popular cooking method for calamari. For fail-proof fried calamari start by thoroughly drying the tenderized squid. Sandwich the calamari in between a couple sheets of paper towels and gently pat to expel any additional liquid. Place the calamari in a bowl with well seasoned flour, tossing to coat, before dipping into beaten eggs, and coating in the dry outer layer. We love a combination of cornmeal, flour, and Old Bay seasoning for a coating, but feel free to use your favorites. Heat oil in a deep fryer or high sided skillet to 350-375°F. Working in batches (making sure not to over crowd the fryer or skillet) fry for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Set aside fried calamari to drain (paper towel or wire rack) before serving. 

We love serving our fried calamari with ample amounts of tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, lemon wedges, and malt vinegar. 

Grilled Calamari

Calamari is fantastic grilled! Even though those rings and tentacles might seem a little difficult to successfully grill, we have a little hack for that… grill baskets. Grill baskets are wonderful! They’ll keep your calamari safe (no lost pieces in between the grill grates) while still allowing that smoky flavor to penetrate. 

Grilling calamari also allows for faster prep too. Instead of the meat mallet tenderizing technique, infuse your acidic marinade with additional flavors and seasoning. Also, no need for excessive draining or drying. Simply place calamari in your basket and grill. For high heat, direct grilling, cook the calamari for 1-2 minutes, flipping the basket halfway through for even grilling. For indirect, low heat grilling (around 250°F), cook your calamari for 5-10 minutes or until hot and tender. 

Grilled calamari is a perfect topper for vibrant veggie salads or, my personal favorite, as a protein topping for epic caesar salads.  


Buy Calamari Online 

You can now buy high quality, fresh tasting Calamari online from Cameron’s Seafood! 

Our frozen squid (tentacles and tubes) are hand-cleaned, packed, & shipped to the highest industry standards. We only sell superior calamari caught fresh and frozen at peak freshness. The frozen calamari are perfect for cooking up appetizers and are great additions to your favorite pasta sauce or ceviche. These are just a few reasons to buy our fresh frozen calamari delivered to your door!

About the author

Patterson Watkins is a professional chef with over 17 years of experience. With a robust career in restaurants, contract dining and catering (including 4 Summer Olympic posts preparing food for the athletes!) Patterson joined the Cameron’s Seafood team at the end of 2018 to concoct some delicious recipes with our premium seafood items as the centerpiece.

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