Other Names: Atlantic long-finned squid, Atlantic short-finned squid, California/Pacific squid, calamari Cuttlefish: sepia
Range & Habitat: Squid is found in the waters of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Cuttlefish is not available in North America except when imported from Europe, where it is as common as squid.
Identification & Biology: Like the octopus, the squid and cuttlefish are both cephalopods (meaning head-legs; they all have ink sacs for squirting when in danger). Unlike the octopus, they have ten tentacles instead of eight. Squid range in size from one inch to 80 feet. The body of the cuttlefish is similar to that of the squid except that it is usually larger and fatter. It also has a larger ink sac than the squid or the octopus, containing much darker ink. The bodies of both are white covered in a translucent, purplish mottled skin
Market Description: Cuttlefish and squid are sold either cleaned or uncleaned. Cleaned, they are bright white and firm, with their tentacles usually intact and attached. Uncleaned, they have a purple-tinged thin skin covering their bodies, which should be removed. Squid have firm, tender meat that turns chewy only when overcooked.
Sold as: Squid can be found fresh, frozen, sun-dried, canned, and pickled. Squid is often frozen and then thawed; as squid retains its flavor during freezing, this is not detrimental to the taste. Cuttlefish is available in the same forms as squid. Cuttlefish, however, because it needs to be imported, is rare and expensive when you can find it, sometimes as much as five times the price as squid. However, cuttlefish tastes so similarly to squid that they are virtually indistinguishable; they are often substituted for each other in Europe.
Buying tips: Squid and cuttlefish should smell of the ocean. They should be shiny and firm. It's best to buy smaller squid and cuttlefish as the larger varieties may be tougher. If possible, ask your fishmonger to clean them and remove their innards for you.
Recommended Preparation: Squid and cuttlefish can be eaten raw, pan-fried, baked, stewed, stir-fried or battered and deep-fried (the calamari which most of us are familiar with). Cooking time should be closely watched as squid and cuttlefish turn rubbery and too chewy when overcooked. The ink of squid and cuttlefish are also used to color pasta or used in a sauce to accompany seafood (squid/cuttlefish or other types).