If you have a garden, you’ve probably dealt with snails and slugs many times throughout your life. What you might not realize is that those ugly little critters are not only edible but surprisingly tasty!
This fact is something that many people around the world have known for years.
In fact, snails are often considered a delicacy in many countries and are eaten in very fancy restaurants for a lot of money!
French cuisine is one of the biggest proponents of snails as food, though there are many other culinary cultures that regularly chow down on snails.
In this article, we’ll discuss snails taste, highlight their texture, explore potential safety concerns, and ensure that you know how to prepare these unique creatures.
We’ll end with three recipes and some frequently asked questions that you need to know about these creatures.
What Are Snails?
The word snail is a broad term used for thousands of different gastropod mollusk species. Snails typically have a large coiled shell on their back into which the creature can retract.
Snails are related to slugs, which are basically snails without a shell.
Snails are renowned for their incredible slowness, as they move very sluggishly across land and plants.
Many species eat plants which can be devastating to gardens due to their voracious appetite and excessive reproduction cycle. However, some are meat eaters and may even eat other snails.
What Is The Expected Flavor Of Snails?
Snails taste much better than you might expect and have a reasonably earthy flavor that can be compared favorably to chicken.
However, they can also have lingering mushroom tastes that make them easy to use in various dishes, including putting on pizza.
Snails don’t have any kind of fishy flavor but are often considered very similar to more insect-type dishes.
While eating insects isn’t common in the western world, around two billion people eat insects every day globally, along with snails and other similar unlikely creatures.
What Do Snails Look Like?
Living snails are primarily identifiable by the large shell on their back, which has a coiled shape that the snail retracts into when sleeping or in danger.
The snail itself is a long and narrow animal with two long stalks on its head where its eyes sit.
When cooked, snails are often prepared in their shells and removed with specialized tools like forks. Their meat is typically the color of their bodies and is very soft and flavorful.
That makes them a unique meal that can be served with various ingredients.
What Texture Do Snails Have?
Snails have a firm and moist texture that is compared favorably to mushrooms, which makes snails a proper alternative topping for meals that use mushrooms.
This tough texture isn’t chewy or excessively firm, though, meaning snails are relatively easy to enjoy.
Like with most meats, snails will also soften or firm up, depending on the cooking method. For example, baking tends to soften snail meat and make it more palpable.
However, frying can produce crispy snails that are enjoyable as a snack or pizza topping.
Types Of Snails?
Snails come in many species, too many to list in one article with any detail. These include your common garden snail, which can be cleaned and eaten if you are careful and know the risks.
However, there are also species like the giant African land snail, which is very big and destructive.
Other species include the brown-lipped snail, apple snail, orchid snail, assassin snail, rabbit snail, and milk snail. Not all of these species are edible or even safe, such as the cone snail group.
There are over 900 cone snails alone, with many of these snails having a stinger to attack prey and even humans.
Where Do Snails Come From?
Snails are found on every continent except for Antarctica and are one of the most common animals on the planet.
They have adapted to multiple environments and are one of the hardiest creatures in the world. You can find them on land and underwater, depending on the species.
Most commercially available snails come from farms, which use safer raising methods to ensure that snails don’t get contaminated by various poisons.
This preparation method is essential because snails can be at high risk for contamination from many poisons.
Are Snails Healthy? Or Dangers Of Eating Snails?
Snails are quite healthy because they’re very low in calories but have a high amount of protein and various vitamins and nutrients.
These include high levels of vitamin A and calcium, which support your immune system and strength. They also have a high concentration of iron.
Snails are heavily associated with various dangerous parasitic diseases, including fasciolopsiasis, schistosomiasis, angiostrongyliasis, fascioliasis, opisthorchiasis, and clonorchiasis.
They may also get exposed to dangerous contaminants like fertilizers and weed killers.
How Do You Eat Snails?
Snails are typically eaten with various sauces that help make them richer in flavor and more enjoyable.
These include a rich garlic butter that soaks into the snail’s skin to make it tastier. You typically have to pull the snails from their shells with a fork called a snail prong.
As you might expect, one snail is simply not enough for people to enjoy this meat. Most snail meals include at least a dozen or more of these creatures carefully flavored.
This makes it important to buy a large volume of snails when planning to produce this meal.
How Can I Store Snails?
You can place snails in your refrigerator for several days before they start going bad. Store them in a plastic airtight container that seals fully.
You can also place them in airtight bags, as long as they zip fully shut and prevent air exchange.
How long you can keep snails will vary depending on their freshness. Some might last as long as a week before they start going bad and spoiling.
It is vital to keep track of them in your refrigerator to ensure that they don’t go bad on you unexpectedly.
Can You Freeze Snails?
Snails can be easily frozen by placing them in a freezer-safe container and sealing it fully. Try to place the snails towards the back of the freezer to ensure that they get enough cold to stay fresh.
They must be frozen below zero degrees Fahrenheit to freeze safely and indefinitely.
Typically, snails will stay at their freshest for six months before they start losing some quality. What is interesting about this fact is that the snails will still be edible even after six months have passed.
When properly protected from freezer burn, some claims that snails freeze indefinitely.
How To Tell If Snails Are Bad?
You can tell when snails are going bad by their smell and texture. When they smell very bad, it is important to throw them away to avoid poisoning.
Bad snails can cause food poisoning, particularly in people who haven’t eaten this type of food before.
However, you can also spot a spoiling snail by a soft texture throughout its flesh or obvious signs of mold. These include black and green areas that may push inward when touched.
This problem will only get worse as the snail spoils, requiring you to throw them away right away.
Can You Eat Snails Raw?
Snails are typically not eaten raw because raw snails are often quite chewy and hard to enjoy.
However, snails are also prone to various diseases and bacterial infections that make them problematic to eat raw. In fact, snails are rarely eaten without some kind of sauce to add to their flavor.
That said, some may eat snails raw out of desperation or when they can’t find any other type of food source.
For example, people in third-world countries may eat raw snails simply because they’re easily available. This step is not wise and should be avoided whenever possible.
Do Snails Have Worms?
Yes, snails can host various worms that spread rapidly throughout their body and cause potential infections.
These worms are quite small and are often destroyed when the snail is properly cooked and cleaned. They may cause some digestive problems even in humans, making it essential to clean them properly.
Snails may also host other parasites that spread through their bodies and remain intact before cooking.
Many culinary specialists strongly argue against catching and cooking free-range snails and encourage people interested in snails only to eat farm-grown varieties.
What Is The Best Way To Cook Snails?
Snails cook best in garlic butter when carefully baked to soften their texture and bring out more flavor. However, there are many ways that you can cook snails.
Baking with garlic butter is simply the best option, though you can also cook them with various herbs and spices as well.
Note that the snails will be roasted right in their shells because it is the simplest and most effective way of cooking them.
While you can remove them from the shells before cooking, this method is rarely used because it takes more time and doesn’t improve their flavor.
How Do You Clean Snails Before Cooking?
If you have live snails, you must purge them first by making them fast for at least a week to eliminate harmful substances in their bodies.
You then place them in a bowl of cold water with salt and vinegar to break apart their slime before washing them and cooking them.
When cooking dead or frozen snails, you simply need to wash them a few times in a pan of warm water to remove debris on the surface.
Note that some culinary traditions call for cooking snails alive in boiling water to kill them. If you find this cruel, you can buy humanely killed snails.
Are Snails Poisonous To Eat?
Snails are typically not poisonous to eat though cone snails have a dangerous sting that can be deadly.
Thankfully, cone snails are rarely eaten and are found in tropical areas with bright colors that should warn you to stay away from them as a food source.
The only real dangers of eating snails are parasites in their bodies or potentially harmful contaminants.
Unfortunately, snails may eat plants with pesticides and other chemicals. That’s why eating snails you find in your garden is not a great idea.
Snails Vs. Crickets
Snails are often compared to crickets because both are relatively unique and unusual meals. Crickets have a taste similar to fried ants, with a lighter flavor and a surprisingly rich taste.
Snails are the better food option for most people, though fried crickets may be eaten as a good snack.
Snails are typically considered more of a main dish than crickets, though they can be enjoyed as a side dish. Crickets are much more niche, and it can be hard to find safe-to-eat crickets on the market.
How Do You Cook Snails?
Cook snails by carefully cleaning them and then flavoring them with various ingredients, such as garlic butter, thyme, parsley, and anything else that you enjoy.
Doing so can help you create a delicious meal that will go well with just about anything, including various rice, potatoes, and more.
Nutritional Value Table
Nutritional Value of One-Ounce of Snails
|Total Fat||0.4 grams|
Quick Table: Amazing Snails Recipes To Know
|Recipes||Calories||Total Preparation Time|
|Cantonese Snails In Black Bean Sauce-Based||83||40 Minutes|
|Snail-Stuffed Mushrooms||240||24 Minutes|
|Greek Snails With Tomato Sauce||480||50 Minutes|
This complex meal requires you to carefully wash periwinkle snails before warming a wok on the stove.
Add vegetable oil and fresh ginger to the mix, along with chopped garlic, onions, black beans, and garlic sauce, before adding the periwinkle snail to the mix.
Pour in some Shaoxing wine before adding sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil to the pot, covering, and cooking for at least 4-5 minutes.
Add white pepper, stir in the cornstarch slurry, and add scallions. This meal requires a lot of steps so make sure you feel comfortable before cooking.
Total Preparation Time: 40 Minutes
Try this recipe if you love mushrooms and want to mix them with a food that pairs well with their texture.
While your oven pre-heats to 375 degrees, mix softened butter, garlic, shallots, parsley, celery, salt, and pepper in a bowl and put herb butter in each mushroom cap.
Put the snail inside of the cap along with your butter mixture and place them in a shallow baking dish, and cooking for 15 minutes.
Try to serve it with rice or a melted butter dipping sauce to get the best results. This very simple dish is French and is found in many restaurants around the world.
Total Preparation Time: 24 Minutes
If you love Greek cuisine, this snail dish is a great option and is one that shows off the global popularity of this unique creature.
Start by cleaning the snails and boiling them for 10 minutes before sauteing an onion for five minutes. Saute the onion with garlic for another two minutes.
Put garlic, cumin, oregano, olive oil, salt, and pepper in the mix and cook for another 10 minutes before adding spinach and snails, covering, and simmering for another 15 minutes.
This delicious meal goes well with various kinds of pasta and is a fantastic option for those who want a healthy dish.
Total Preparation Time: 50 Minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s The Difference Between Snails And Slugs?
The only significant difference between snails and slugs is that slugs don’t have a shell. As a result, you can also cook slugs using similar recipes.
That said, slugs (while they are eaten in some areas) are usually not considered as much of a delicacy.
Why Do People Boil Snails Alive?
Boiling snails alive is a common tradition because it creates the freshest meat possible.
Some believe that snails don’t feel pain, though they retreat into their shells while being boiled. You don’t have to cook them in this way if you find it uncomfortable.
Are Snail Bites Dangerous?
When handling live snails, you might be surprised when one bites you. Snails have many teeth that they use to eat plants and other types of food.
Their bite isn’t poisonous and shouldn’t be dangerous, though you should use proper wound treatment methods if they break the skin.
Do Snails Cause Food Poisoning?
Any kind of food can cause poisoning, particularly meats, because they are often home to bacteria and other infections.
Snails can trigger food poisoning if you don’t cook them thoroughly or if they’re spoiled. Ensure their meat hits at least 130-145 degrees Fahrenheit before eating.
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