If you’ve ever asked yourself, “what do snails taste like?” you’re not alone. This meal has become popular in recent years, and many people want to try it for the first time.
Let’s discuss the overall taste of snails, including how to cook them properly. We’ll also answer a few common questions people often ask when preparing and cooking snails for the first time.
What Do Snails Taste Like? The Answer is Surprising
When asking, “what does escargot taste like?” it might be surprising to learn that it has a diverse taste that is often compared favorably to fish or chicken. The overall texture is similar to clams and provides a diverse array of different meal opportunities.
That’s because snail is a lot like chicken and fish in that it can take on the flavor of whatever ingredients it is prepared within your meals!
For example, if you mix snails with butter, it will take on a buttery flavor and feel in your dishes. Likewise, adding garlic, onions, peppers, and other ingredients to a snail dish will pass these tastes over to the snail.
That’s one reason people have been eating snails for so long (more on that later): they’re very diverse and can work well in so many fresh meals.
Eating Garden Snails: A Potential Problem
While cleaning, preparing, and cooking garden snails from your yard is possible, many experts suggest avoiding this step. That’s because garden snails may contain a dangerous parasite that can cause serious digestion problems and discomfort.
In some cases, these bacteria can even be deadly, so it is probably best not to clean and eat garden snails out of your yard.
Furthermore, you never know exactly where your garden’s snails may have been in your yard. They could eat various poisons or other items that could stay in their system and infect you if you try to eat them.
While extreme heat may kill many snail-based parasites, it doesn’t affect poisons. Therefore, if you want to eat snails, it is best to buy them from a trusted food store.
Where to Buy Snails
Many stores sell edible snails, including general grocery stores, supermarkets, and even pet shops. However, pet stores are probably not the best option because they may not properly clean and prepare snails before selling them.
In other words, they offer snails as pets and for animal food, not human food. As a result, it is better to look for snails in food stores instead.
Stores may sell snails in a few different forms. For example, fresh snails let you cook and clean these snails while they’re still alive and prepare the freshest meals.
Frozen or freeze-dried snails will last longer than living snails but won’t be as fresh. We strongly suggest buying fresh snails if you want to cook this animal, as frozen or freeze-dried options simply don’t taste the same.
Are Snails Good for You?
Snails are often considered a healthy alternative to many types of meat.
For example, a four-ounce serving of snails (without extra cooking ingredients) has around 102 calories, two grams of fat, 57 milligrams of cholesterol, 79 milligrams of sodium, two grams of carbohydrates, and 18 grams of protein. These amounts are comparable to beef and pork but with far less fat.
Furthermore, snails are a good source of vitamin A, calcium, iron, and other healthy nutrients. As a result, they can help you fight off things like osteoporosis, strengthen your eyes, boost your body development, and keep yourself fully oxygenated.
Naturally, this healthiness will vary depending on how you cook snails, as some cooking methods will strip nutrients.
How to Cook Snail Well
Cooking snail well starts by properly cleaning and preparing the snails first. This process is fairly quick and shouldn’t take any more than half an hour.
Note that we provide a suggestion for the number of snails you may want to clean, but you can change that to whatever number works for your meal:
- Place about 50 live snails in a pan next to your work area
- Take a snail and carefully pry off its shell membrane to humanely kill it
- Place the snail in a large pot or pan and repeat this process with all snails
- Fill the pot with fresh water and scrub their shells to clean them off
After you’ve cleaned your snails, you can use a few cooking methods.
Baking might be the most beneficial option because it creates a fresh texture that is adaptable to many meals and recipes.
Follow these steps when baking snails in your oven:
- Line a baking sheet with cooking paper to keep snails from burning on the top
- Place the snails on the baking sheet and give them at least one-half inch room between each
- Preheat the oven to about 450 degrees to get a consistent and proper cooking temperature
- Put the snails in the oven and let them cook for 30 minutes
- Check the snails after 30 minutes and cook them for 10 more minutes if they’re not tender
- Repeat this process until the snails are as tender as possible and adaptable to your meals
You can easily find many fantastic snail recipes online that you can adapt to your specific tastes.
As a bonus, we’ve included a simple garlic-based snail recipe that will emulate the taste of a classic escargot meal. Garlic is heavily used in many snail recipes, so make sure you have some available.
A Popular Garlic-Based Snail Recipe!
If you’re interested in cooking snails just like the French do, this option may be the best choice for you!
This recipe should take about 45 minutes to cook with canned snails, though may take longer if you clean snails individually before cooking.
The steps necessary for this process include:
- Melting one ounce of butter with snails and shallots for 3-4 minutes
- Seasoning this mix with salt and pepper before storing in a bowl
- Chopping garlic, parsley, and basil leaves in a food processor
- Mixing these bowls together and adding cubed butter until it softens
- Placing the sauteed snails on a cooking pan and sprinkling with breadcrumbs
- Preheating an oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Cooking the snails for 10-15 minutes or until tender
- Serving with a piece of bread or baguette for ease of eating
This recipe can serve one or more people, depending on how many snails you prepare.
A good rule of thumb is to cook at least 5-10 snails per person, depending on their preference and appetite. Some people may enjoy more, so try to have a few extras to ensure everybody eats enough.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cooking Snails
Here are a few of the most common questions people ask when cooking snails.
These simple questions highlight important facts about preparing this food, including a few ethical questions that may concern people who want to eat with minimal cruelty.
Are Snails Chewy?
Snails definitely have a chewy texture that may be surprising or even off-putting to some people. They’re naturally rather dense in their body shape and texture, which means they can be rather tough to chew.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t make them a bit more tender. It is often a good idea to boil them for extended periods to soften up their bodies and make them a little more tender.
These lengthy cooking times do come with a downside: nutrient loss. Some cooking methods may strip nutrients from your snails, particularly boiling and baking.
While it is true that cooking food an appropriate time can enhance their nutrient absorption in the body, cooking for too long will have the opposite effect and may make your snails less healthy.
Do People Eat Snails Alive?
People don’t eat snails alive but many restaurants will cook them alive (similar to crabs). Typically, this includes boiling a large pot of water and pouring in the snails right in their shells.
Some people protest this as excessive cruelty, though food preparation experts claim it keeps the food fresh and helps avoid contamination from various bacteria and other issues that may affect a snail.
Thankfully, you don’t have to cook snails in this way if it doesn’t feel comfortable to you. Instead, you can humanely kill them using various methods.
Even though boiling them alive obviously also kills them, it is a very painful death that may take several minutes to complete. Some state that freezing snails can slowly and humanely kill them, though this method is also debated.
Why are Snails Eaten?
Snails have been eaten for thousands of years, with some digs finding evidence of people eating snails over 30,000 years ago.
Ancient Roman culture, middle age monks, and even knights all ate snails regularly as meals. There are a few reasons snails were eaten during these times.
First, they were easy to find due to their high population. Second, they were very easy to catch and kill.
Thirdly, snails are tasty and can be used in various meals with minimal difficulty. As mentioned before, their meat naturally absorbs many flavors very well.
This makes them easy to use in just about any meal. Furthermore, in cultures where raising meat was rare or some animals were either sacred or considered dirty, snails could be a valuable alternative protein source.
Today, modern diners eat snails because of their low-fat nutrient count, their rich variety of vitamins, their diverse taste, and their overall texture.
Many cultures consider them a delicacy, such as France’s legendary escargot meals. Cooking snails at home has become a common experiment for many foodies, particularly those that want a new challenge to their cooking routines.