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How To Prepare Abalone

By Rebecca Gardon

If you’re a seafood lover who has never tried abalone, you’re missing out! Abalone provides the subtle sweetness of scallops, the brininess of a clam, with a buttery finish. Its texture is pleasantly chewy, similar to calamari. 

Many of our customers avoid abalone because they don’t know how to prepare it, or they believe it is endangered and shouldn’t be eaten. In this blog post we will share some tips for sourcing responsibly harvested abalone, and how to prepare abalone.  

What Is Abalone?

Scientifically speaking, abalone is a mollusk belonging to the haliotidae family. It’s also a gastropod, or univalve, in that it has one shell versus two, like clams or oysters, which are bivalves. More simply, it’s a sea snail – let’s eat!

What Makes Abalone So Special?

Abalone has been long sought after for its iridescent mother-of-pearl shell and delicious meat.

Once upon a time, several species of abalone proliferated the California coast. However, by the late 1900s, numbers had greatly declined. Overfishing, disease, and a series of environmental disasters ultimately led California to ban commercial fishing of abalone. (Recreational diving was also banned but is currently allowed north of San Francisco from April to November, with restrictions.) 

Today, restoration programs are helping wild abalone to make a comeback, while sustainable aquaculture provides a responsible alternative for sourcing this shellfish. At Catalina Offshore Products, we offer live green abalone and red abalone meat and steaks from Baja-based abalone farms.

How To Prepare Live Abalone

Every great seafood chef knows how to prepare abalone – and you can too! If starting with live abalone, clean it by removing the meat from the shell. You’ll need an oyster shucker, or similar blunt tool, and a towel to hold the abalone in place while also protecting your hands (similar to shucking an oyster). We suggest putting abalone in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before you begin as cold temperatures make them less mobile. 

Wedge the shucker between the abalone and its shell. Firmly, but gently, work along the shell until the connective muscle detaches. Slide the abalone meat out of shell. All of the meat is edible, but most people prefer to cut off the guts as well as trim the tough pointed end and frilly black edges.

Coat abalone with kosher salt, then use the towel to scrub and clean the meat. At this point you may slice the abalone into pieces and enjoy it raw or cooked. However, because abalone meat can be tough, many chefs suggest tenderizing it first. 

How To Prepare Tenderized Abalone

To tenderize abalone, use the flat (non-spiked) side of a meat tenderizer or mallet. Place the abalone in a plastic bag to protect it from being cut. As you pound the abalone, check its texture every once in a while. It will feel noticeably softer when you touch it. 

How To Prepare Abalone For Sushi

The taste of abalone is quite mild, similar to scallops, so be careful not to overpower it with bold flavors. Serve it chilled with a spritz of lemon or lime and a bit of ponzu, or a drizzle of olive oil. You don’t need much to make this seafood shine in its pure, raw form! 

How To Cook Abalone

One of the most popular culinary approaches to cleaned, tenderized abalone meat is to fry it with a little butter for just a couple of minutes on each side. You can also dust it with a bit seasoned flour first to lend some additional flavor. Another option is to bread it, slice it and sauté it. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and pair with a crisp white wine! Know you know how to prepare abalone, making you that much closer to a greater seafood chef.

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