Cleaning squid
  |  First Published: November 2012

Squid, a cephalopod mollusc related to the cuttlefish and octopus, is a great bait and is highly prized eating but is often seen as too messy and awkward to prepare. However, if you follow these simple steps you will be able to get the best out of your catch.

Squid are messy to clean when taken straight out of the water or at room temperature. It is best to chill them down first, the slime and ink becomes much easier to handle and the flesh and entrails become more rigid. Firmer entrails will stay attached to the squid’s head, which means that when you remove the head most of the entrails will come out at the same time. And more importantly, the ink sac will come away without discharging.

The tentacles and body tube are the edible bits - up to half the body weight will be discarded during cleaning.


1. Squid and a fish blade knife on my seafood-only cutting board.

2. Grasp the body in one hand and the head and ten ‘legs’ (eight arms and two long tentacles) in the other hand. Firmly pull apart the head from the body tube with a slight twisting motion.

3. The head (and eye) and entrails should easily slip out of the body. Discard the innards, as well as anything that may be in there being digested.

4a and 4b. Place your knife just under the eyes of the squid and cut straight down through (across) the head (behind the tentacles) to separate the tentacles away in one piece. Discard the intestines.

The fleshy parts of the head and the eyes make a good one-off reef bait on a two hook gang rig. This head piece can be up to about 6” long and would go well on a gang rig made from large hooks.

5. Where the cut has gone through the head, the upper and lower beaks end up in the head and thus you no longer have to worry about them. However, sometimes your knife cut will leave the beak in the tentacle part. To remove it, push the tentacles outwards, squeeze the beak out and discard. It simply pops out when pushed through from the other side.

The squid’s parrot-like beak (mouth) consists of two bony pieces of inedible hard cartilage and is located at the base of the tentacles where they connect to the head of the squid. It sits in the centre of the tentacles and must be removed before cooking.

6. Once the head and tentacles are removed, the tube portion remains which contains a thin, clear sliver of cartilage. This cartilage (quill), also known as the cuttle or cuttlebone, is clear and inedible. To remove the cartilage, get your fingers under the cuttle, between the cuttle and the body. With your fingers underneath, pry/pull it from the squid’s body tube. In larger squid you may need to cut the pocket; it should release fairly easily on smaller squid.

7. The fully removed cuttle.

8. Remove the wings from the body by prying your thumb in between the wings and body tube. On bigger squid it helps to use the tip of a sharp knife to make a long cut where a wing joins the body.

9. The skin will generally also be removed when the wings are being muscled (ripped) off. If not, start at the open end of the tube and get a few fingers in under the skin – wiggling your fingers about keeps the skin coming off in one piece.

If you have a lot of squid to do, then a great tip is to use a clean kitchen scourer pad (the green type) to help rub the skin off.

The skin is edible so you can leave it on the tube if you prefer.

10. The two side flaps and the skin around the tube/mantle can be removed by pushing your thumb under one of the flaps, then peeling the whole lot away as one piece. By getting your fingers, then your hand, in between a wing and the tube, you can push your fingers all the way through to the other side out under both wings. Once you can get a good grip on the wings, you will be able remove them away from the tube.

11. The tube/mantle, the tentacles, the wings and the skin – the wings and the skin have been separated.

12. For presentation, cut away the first ‘lip’ of the tube opening so everything is straight.

13. Cut the rest of the tube into rings.

14. Cut the wings into strips

15. Cut the tentacles into manageable lengths. The parts with suckers on them are super tasty, and most people leave the skin on.

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