Calamari Grilling Tips

Chef Philman George Tips & Techniques

My absolute favourite way to prepare calamari is to grill it.  When done right, it is an amazing dish, that is tender and full of flavour.  When done wrong, it can be extremely tough and chewy.

When I was at the Flanagans food show earlier this week in Kitchener Ontario, I had a chance to prepare some Calamari for all those who were lucky enough to pass by our booth.  As people passed by to sample I noticed that there was this love or hate relationship with calamari. Those who hate it were reluctant to try it again, because their past experiences with it were brutally unpleasant.  When cooking squid great care has to be taken, as the line between tender and rubber is very thin indeed.  Here are a few tips that will help you achieve the perfect grilled calamari every time.

Calamari Grilling Tips:

  • A great tasting calamari was most likely marinated before it was grilled!
  • Do not marinate with citrus juices as the acid will cook the squid making it tough.  Use citrus zest to achieve the citrus taste without the acid.
  • Grill should be extremely hot.  Calamari is naturally wet, so if the grill is not hot enough it will steam instead of charring.  A hot grill will also help lock in the juices and reduce the cooking time!
  • Use the grill brush to clear away any debris.  This is extremely important as calamari will rapidly pick up this debris if it is not cleared away before hand.
  • If marinated using oil, swipe the marinated calamari over a cool section of the grill.  This will allow the excess oil to drip off, which will minimize flare ups when it’s placed on the hottest side of the grill.
  • Calamari is cooked when the inside has lost its transparent look.  This normally takes about 2-3min.
  • Making incisions in the squid tube during the marinating process helps provide a window to observe whether the calamari is cooked all the way through.
  • After the grill marks/charring is achieved, move the calamari to a cooler part of the grill and cover it with a pan.  This will create a dome of heat that will allow the inside to cook quicker.

Taste, taste, taste!  If grilled calamari is new to the menu, then have your grill chef/cook place an extra tube of squid on the grill for tasting purposes.  Before each plate goes out, taste a piece to ensure it’s tender and has been cooked properly.  Keep doing this until you are confident with your grill chef/cooks capabilities with cooking calamari to perfection. Repeat this process with each new grill chef/cook.

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