Abalone Preparation

CopyRight @ 1998

So now you caught it, now what do you do with it? Abalone is the ultimate yuppie food, it is also one of the hardest dishes to prepare properly. It can be made into a delicate tasty culinary treat or it can be made into a tough, inedible tragedy. All stages of its preparation are important to having the final dish come out good.

Abs. They're great eating, but the sucker is stuck to the bottom of your ice chest at the moment. If you want a good meal, take good care of the thing.

Abalone can live for a long time out of water and it is best to keep them alive and healthy, until you are ready for final preparation for eating or storing. This starts on the boat. Most boats have live game wells. Keep them in this. I always bring an extra goody bag on a boat. One to carry under water and one to put in the live game well with what I have caught. If a live game well is not available, put a seawater soaked towel over the goody bag. Another way, is to put some kelp in the bag to keep the Abalone moist. On the way home, after the boat, this is true too. Keep them moist under a towel or some kelp. If you put them in a bucket or ice chest full of seawater, they will die fairly quickly. Kept moist and cool, they may well live 24 hours or even more, out of water.

Properly cleaning an Abalone is difficult and it is best to start with the right tools. The days of preparing after a dive and beating it with the butt of a dive knife are all well and good, but it is far from the best way to do it.

For preparing an abalone, it is best to have:

  • An Ab iron or flat bamboo spoon for getting it out of the shell.
  • A very thin sharp knife like a fillet knife.
  • A good cutting and pounding board.
  • A good Abalone pounder.
  • Cleaning any game and Abalone especially, takes practice.

    Know your game. Hold the Abalone upside down, with the shell in your hand. Call where the head is, the "front". Hey, that's the way they go. On your right is the flatter leading edge of the shell. This is where it grows. On your left, is the rimmed side that is higher and more curved than the flat side. On this side are the small "breathing" holes through the shell.

    Slide the Ab iron or bamboo spoon in between the foot and the leading edge of the shell. You are trying to separate the base of the foot from where it is attached to the shell, without losing meat from the foot that sticks to the shell. If it is a really big ab, you may have to push in the iron as far as you can then pick up the Ab and pound the base of the iron on the ground to force the iron in. Hopefully, it doesn't pop out too suddenly.

    Once the foot is released from the shell, you can carefully run your finger up the inside of the rim, to release the innards of the Abalone that stick to the shell. Be a bit careful, I have found that rim to be a bit sharp on rare occasion.

    Now you're to the good part, the guts. Also, now the whole thing is slipperier than all get go. You want to be holding the Ab from the bottom with your palm against the bottom of the foot. The intent is to remove the guts starting on the leading edge and going around until you reach the head. Then you cut in a bit and remove the whole head. You do not want to cut into the guts if it can be avoided, because it makes a mess. Guts must be gotten rid of carefully, because they make a great stink if left around. The guts are attached to the foot only up at the rim of the top of the foot. This means that you can cut around the smaller knob at the top of the foot and all the guts will be cleanly cut loose. Then you cut in to remove the head. If you want, instead of using a knife, you can pull the guts off. It is not easy, but it is fairly clean and probably would not be hard if you want to practice some.

    Now is a good time to do a thorough rinse of the entire foot.

    The Abalone can be frozen now, but I usually do one more step first. There is a skirt around the abalone, above the bottom of the foot. It sticks out about an inch and has sensory and other functions. It is about 1/4 inch thick. I tend to go all around the abalone with a sharp knife to remove this. I then go around the bottom of the foot as well. If I plan to freeze the Abalone, I do it now, because the skin on it will help prevent freezer burn.

    To prepare it for eating, the next step is to remove the outer skin all the way around. Slice across to remove the bottom of the foot. This can be a bit thick, but you should remove less than a 1/4 inch even from a big Ab. The darker meat at the bottom of the foot can be a bit tougher, but the taste is as good as any part. Remove a thin layer off of the top knob where the foot connected to the shell. Cut a thin layer off of the whole rest of the foot. The only place where it needs more than a very thin layer to be removed, is along where the skirt was.

    When done, it is a good time to carefully rinse the whole thing again.

    Then it is time to slice the foot. It can be cut from thick to thin according to taste, but it may be easier to get thicker pieces tenderized. Cut it around 1/4 inch, though I have cut 1/2 inch steaks from big reds. It may be easiest to cut from the top knob first. You can cut steaks from the bottom of the foot, but after I have cut off the top knob, I tend to cut the remaining large part of the foot in 1/2 and then slice the steaks off of it.

    Now you get to pound it. You want a good pounder and pounding board. I put some layers of newspaper under it to reduce the noise and protect what the board is on, like a counter top. I like to go outside and set the board and paper on concrete. The more solid base helps. Get the biggest pounder you can. Sometimes, I hit the pieces as hard as I can, trying to shatter the fibers. Sometimes, the piece I am pounding is not so hard, so I give it a few soft whaps until it seems right. Then around the thinner edges, you just do what you can. You do not want to pound such that you are going to tear the meat.

    Once you have evenly pounded the steaks, you have done most of the prep work for your meal. Sometimes, as I pound them, I put a bit of lemon juice on them as I pile them in a bowl, they come out better and don't rip as much that way.

    Now is the time to look at another page for the recipe to use.

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