When cooked properly, fried calamari is the perfect appetizer: crisp and tender, perfect for popping into your mouth all on its own, with a spritz of lemon, or dipped into marinara sauce. On the other hand, fried calamari can easily become sad and soggy, chewy to the point of being rubbery, or — worst-case scenario — both of the above.
Luckily, there are two key steps that guarantee crispy-tender fried calamari to rival anything you’ll find at your favorite fried seafood joint. First, make sure to give the calamari a quick marinade in buttermilk; this helps tenderize it and also adds flavor. Next, after you drain off the buttermilk, toss the calamari pieces in a mixture of all-purpose and rice flour. The rice flour (regular not sweet!) helps create a delicate coating that shatters when you bite into it.
What’s the best oil for frying calamari?
Any high-smoke-point oil — like vegetable, canola, or peanut oil — will work for frying calamari. I recommend an oil with a very mild flavor so that the delicate calamari flavor shines through.
How do you make sure fried calamari is not chewy?
In addition to soaking the calamari in buttermilk before frying, avoid frying the calamari for too long. Pull the calamari out of the oil when it’s light golden-brown.
More tips for frying calamari
1 pound cleaned squid or calamari (see Recipe Notes if buying whole squid)
1 cup buttermilk
6 cups vegetable or canola oil, for deep frying
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white rice flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 3/4 teaspoon fine salt, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder or granules
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
Lemon wedges and tartar sauce, for serving
1. Thaw 1 pound cleaned squid or calamari if frozen. Cut the bodies crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces but leave the tentacles whole. Place the rings and tentacles in a medium bowl, add 1 cup buttermilk, and stir to combine. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Heat 6 cups vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until 375 F. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200 F. Fit a wire rack onto a baking sheet. Place 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup white rice flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 3/4 teaspoon fine salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Drain the calamari in a colander and agitate the calamari with your hands to remove as much liquid as possible.
4. Bread and fry the calamari in 4 to 5 batches: Drop a handful of calamari (about 1/2 cup) into the flour mixture and toss until well coated, separating the pieces with your hands. Transfer to a fine-mesh strainer and shake over the bowl to remove the excess flour.
5. Transfer to the hot oil, stir immediately to separate the pieces, and fry until just cooked through and light golden brown, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer to the rack with a slotted spoon or spider and season lightly with salt. Place the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Bread the next batch while the oil is coming back up to 375 F. Serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.
Whole calamari: If you purchase whole, uncleaned calamari, you’ll need 2 pounds. Here are instructions on how to clean them.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two days. Reheat in a 325-degree oven until warmed through.
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