How to Boil Snails

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Fresh snails in Italy
Fresh snails in Italy (Image: Heliciculture.com)

Snails are a food tradition dating all the way back to the Roman Empire and while to many, snails are considered a delicacy, they are actually eaten as abundantly as any other meat in North Africa and the Mediterranean regions. Snails are especially popular in Catalonia, Spain, where the “Aplec del cargol” snail celebration takes place each year, drawing in over 200,000 visitors. Snails are also eaten in large amounts in Greece, Sicily and France, and are considered a “cheap” snack in Portugal. In France, snails or escargots, are an important part of the cuisine. The French eat 8 pounds of snails per head each year. If you’d like to prepare your own snails at home, here’s an easy guide to doing it right.

Things You'll Need

  • Snails
  • Covered basket or net sack
  • Large bucket
  • Large soup pot
  • Salt
  • Vinegar
  • Strainer or colander

Clean your snails. If you’re using live, fresh snails from a harvesting farm, you’ll need to make sure that their insides are clean before preparing them. Place the snails in a covered basket or net sack. The basket should be placed in a cool dry place and the snails must be able to breathe. Leave the basket for 4 days.

Wash the snails. After 4 days without food, the snails will be ready for further preparation. Their insides may be clean, but there shells must too be washed out. Place the snails in a bucket of clean water and add a little salt and vinegar. Let the snails sit for 10 minutes, until the water turns milky.

Strain and rinse the snails. Repeat the washing step above several times, until the water no longer turns milky.

Prepare to boil your snails. Fill a large soup pot with water and add a little salt and vinegar to it. The pot should be large enough to hold all the snails covered with about an inch of water. Bring to a boil.

Boil the snails. Pour the cleaned snails into the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.

Strain and rinse the boiled snails. The snails are now ready to be used in other recipes. You can tip and shell them for pasta or soup or you can leave them in the shell and boil or saute them in a sauce.

Tips & Warnings

  • Though it is possible to eat the snails you find in your garden, it is not recommended. Wild land snails can carry a rare form of meningitis and if the snails are undercooked the parasite will not be killed.
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