photo credit cheesy42 / / CC BY

The conch has a beautiful, heavy spiral shell with a trap door at the opening. If it is alive the trap door should close if you touch it. Do not use the conch if it is dead. It is actually a type of sea snail along with winkles, periwinkles and whelks. The conch is the largest with the winkles and periwinkles being the smallest. These are all very similar with the main difference being the size of their shells. The conch being the largest has a shell that is often used for jewelry and other decorations. The most popular type of is the pink and the queen conch. Less popular but still edible are the hawking, milk and ivory conch. Most abundant in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean, it is now restricted from commercial harvesting in the United States. Farming has made fresh and frozen conch available in U.S markets. If buying the meat it should not be gray in color or have a fishy smell. Raw meat is snow white to orange and has a taste similar to abalone or clams.  Fresh meat will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

To Cook Conch

Conch, winkles, periwinkles and whelks can all be prepared the same way but conch being larger will probably need tenderizing before cooking. To remove the meat, steam the conch for about 5 minutes. This should open the trap door and allow you to pull out the meat. Another method is to drill a hole in the upper backside of the shell to release the suction. Cut off and discard the dark tail and stomach, which is near the middle, and pull off the leathery skin. Soak the meat in clean water for a couple hours, changing the water a few times. The meat should be off white and will require tenderizing before cooking. Slice the meat thin and pound to tenderize. There is a video you can watch that shows the procedure for cleaning.                   The best way to cook conch is to bake, broil pan fry, sauté, steam or poach.

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