What Are Calamari Rings?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
Fresh squid used for calamari.
Fresh squid used for calamari.

Calamari rings are a type of dish made using squid, and they can be prepared in a number of different ways. The rings of calamari come from the body of the squid, also called the mantle, which is cut across the length of the body. One of the most common preparations for calamari rings is coating the rings in flour, though sometimes batter is used instead, and then lightly frying them until crispy and cooked through. Calamari rings can also be prepared by baking them, often in a shallow dish with some oil and seasoning or a few vegetables for flavor.

Fried calamari.
Fried calamari.

The name “calamari rings” comes from the shape of the animal from which this food derives. “Calamari” is the plural form of calamaro, which is Italian for squid. The ring shape comes from the body or mantle of the squid, which is essentially a tube shape capped at one end with the top of the squid and at the other end with the tentacles. When only the body of the squid is used, it can be cut across its length into rings that can be served with the tentacles or used alone.

Calamari rings come from the body of a squid.
Calamari rings come from the body of a squid.

One of the most common and popular preparations for calamari rings involves battering or coating them in flour and then frying them in hot oil. The rings can be prepared in a number of different ways, though, including marinating the rings overnight before use. These marinated rings can then be dredged in flour — they are usually wet enough to not require buttermilk or egg — and then deep fried. The calamari rings are typically fried at very high temperature for only one or two minutes, which is long enough to get the batter or flour crispy and to cook the calamari without making it tough.

When the body of a squid is used to make calamari rings, the squid is cut the long way, with or without its tentacles.
When the body of a squid is used to make calamari rings, the squid is cut the long way, with or without its tentacles.

Calamari rings can also be prepared by baking them in a dish. This usually involves cutting the body of the calamari into rings, which can then be tossed together with oil and other flavors. Diced or sliced shallots and garlic can be added to this mixture, as well as flavors and seasonings like salt, pepper, lemon juice, white wine, and parsley. The calamari rings and the rest of the mixture can then be poured into a shallow baking dish and baked in a hot oven until the rings cook through and the flavors meld together.

What Is Calamari Made Of?

Calamari comes from a specific type of squid known as, you guessed it, the calamari. There is common confusion between squid, octopus, and calamari and any differences between the three at all. There certainly are plenty of identifiable differences. Namely, the octopus is an entirely different animal. The calamari, however, is a smaller version of the classically giant squid.

What Does Calamari Look Like?

In the seas, wild and free, calamari looks just like a small squid. They are one in the same species, after all. Calamari differs from traditional squid mainly in their size but also the flaps and fins. Calamari fins are whole body in length, whereas squid fins are shorter and more closely clipped. The calamari has triangular flaps at the narrow end of its body, but the average squid has an arrow-like flap that is longer and thinner. Giant squid are also more rigid, tougher, and less appetizing to eat.

Is Calamari Squid or Octopus?

Despite common misconceptions, calamari is a type of squid, not octopus. Though both animals live and are hunted from the sea, the two species are different. Both species are in the group Cephalopoda, with the largest specimen being the giant squid. Both have symmetrical bodies and no vertebrae and obviously live in open water. Both can also easily camouflage themselves when in danger and have multiple strong arms.

Squid feed on the small fish and shrimp that live in the water columns of the open ocean. Octopus dive deep for their homes and prefer to live far down on the ocean floor, eating the crustaceans that move about down there. Octopus have eight arms, for which they are known. Squid alternately have eight arms and two additional tentacles that are a bit longer than the other eight. Squid also have a different defense mechanism, the ink sac, that they can deploy when in danger.

How Is Calamari Prepared?

The entire body of the calamari can be eaten, for the most part. However, in much of the United States, calamari refers to only the cut rings from the body section of the calamari squid. Both body sections and tentacles are edible and delicious when expertly prepared.

Cleaning Calamari

If you are making your dish at home, you must clean your calamari and prepare it before choosing a preferred cooking method.

Remove the Head From the Body

  • Grab the tail in one hand
  • Grab the head in the other hand
  • As you pull the two apart, twist firmly
  • Both the head and innards should come out

Detach The Head and Remove Any Ink

  • Remove the head from behind the tentacles
  • Check for any excess ink behind the eyes
  • Carefully drain ink into an alcohol solution
  • Find the ink sac in the innard attached to the head
  • Puncture the ink sac and drain it into the alcohol solution
  • Discard the head and innards

On Reserving Squid Ink

Squid ink can be costly. Many famous chefs worldwide use squid ink to flavor and color many different dishes. You can keep your squid ink suspended in an alcohol solution for a short time to use in your dishes. If you have chef friends, give them the squid ink as a gift.

Cleaning the Tentacles

Be sure that you removed any excess from the tentacles by cutting them right underneath the eye as you pulled the squid ink. If not, continue to clean that area more concisely.

Once the tentacles are cleanly detached, you must disconnect the squid beak. The beak is a hard piece of inedible cartilage that must be removed before cooking. The squid beak is just where the tentacles were connected to the head, and once they are disconnected, you can pop the stiff nib out and remove it.

Cleaning the Body

There is a long shard of cartilage known as the cuttlebone in the calamari’s tail. Reach in the tail, grab it between two fingers. Secure the other end of the tail with your other hand. Pull firmly on the cartilage, and it should then detach easily.

Cooking the Tentacles

Once the calamari is cleaned, the best presentation for the tentacles is a flash fry with butter, lemon, and herbs. Many people prefer an additional herbed butter dipping sauce to add to their tentacles.

Cooking the Rings

After the body has been cut into rings, they are usually marinated to ensure tenderness. Typical marinades are buttermilk, hot sauce, or egg mixtures. Calamari rings are dredged, breaded, and then fried as their most popular presentation. Choose any dip that suits your fancy to accompany your calamari rings.

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    • Fresh squid used for calamari.
      Fresh squid used for calamari.
    • Fried calamari.
      Fried calamari.
    • Calamari rings come from the body of a squid.
      By: hiphoto39
      Calamari rings come from the body of a squid.
    • When the body of a squid is used to make calamari rings, the squid is cut the long way, with or without its tentacles.
      By: margo555
      When the body of a squid is used to make calamari rings, the squid is cut the long way, with or without its tentacles.