How Fry Calamari for Foodservice
When it comes to appetizers, it's hard to beat calamari: it's popular, easy, and profitable!
Calamari is one of the easier items to fry - compared to fish or chicken, the small size gives it a quick cook time. However, that same fact can be the most common mistake! Calamari only needs to cook for 60 to 90 seconds in hot oil. Cooking it too long can lead to an unpleasant or tough texture. With such a short cook time, even an additional 30 seconds is a substantial overage, so being diligent is very important.
Another key component is managing the oil temperature: aim for 350° to 365° F. If the oil temperature is too low, the calamari will absorb too much oil and become soggy, or will lose its breading all together. On the other hand, if the oil is too hot, the outside will cook faster than the inside. To confirm, you can always drop one calamari ring in the oil - if the oil bubbles and the calamari floats, you're in business! Leave it for about a minute to start, and adjust your cooking time according to how it turns out.
Another consideration is your breading. A simple flour, salt, pepper, garlic mixture works well, and there are also a variety of pre-made options out there. We usually use Drum Rock's Fish-Chic Wonder Batter - it works perfectly with our calamari, and we're happy to support another iconic Rhode Island company! Also, be sure your calamari isn't too wet when you apply the breading, as it will have a harder time sticking.
While calamari isn't harder on oil than other fried items, the quick cook time and popularity often means quick turnovers on the fryer, so be sure to keep an eye on the oil. Be sure to strain or replace to avoid any burning flavor in the food.
So let's recap our best suggestions for cooking:
- Heat the oil between 350° and 365° F before adding the calamari.
- Monitor that the oil temperature stays in this range.
- Cook for approximately 60-90 seconds.
- Add any sauces or sides and serve immediately.
While we have a personal bias for Rhode Island Style Calamari - fried and tossed in hot peppers and garlic, served with a side of marinara - calamari's neutral flavor profile allows for many possibilities. We love a Buffalo Style Calamari with sauce, blue cheese or ranch, and scallions. Some restaurants do a sticky Asian style, a Greek style, and more. Anything you would do with chicken wings or whitefish - give it a try with calamari! You may discover a new fan-favorite.