A Beginner's Guide to cooking with insects
3 April 2021
6 min read
Let's be fair about cooking with insects: it will never have the looks of a steak or burger for example. But neither do delicacies such as oysters, caviar or a seriously old (but damn tasty) blue cheese. Do we love those though? Absolutely! So let's forget about looks and appearances for a bit and focus on what's important here: taste. But before we move on and get into all the details about the insects, we have some ground rules you should think of while cooking them:
- First and foremost: eating them raw is highly disadvised - although that is also said about chicken, but eating raw chicken sashimi seems to have become a trend in Japan as well , so you never know...
- Rule of thumb: the smaller the more delicate. This means that mealworms and buffaloworms are overcooked pretty easily if they are put on too high heat or on the heat for too long. Due to size, crickets and grasshoppers are a little less gentle. Make sure that you never put the heat on very high and just keep an eye on your insects and remove them from the heat when they start to look shiny. Overcooked and/or burnt insects turn dark pretty quickly and get a bitter taste - a little like burnt nuts. Best to avoid!
- Because this becomes more of a problem in the pan than in the oven (the oven should be evenly heated everywhere, whereas in a pan this is often not the case) we advise starting with roasting your insects in the oven. Less can go wrong, and the chances of you enjoying your insects are higher!
As said, you can prepare insects either in the pan or the oven. On the one hand, the oven gives you ease-of-use because you only need to get the temperature and time right and leave the rest to the oven. On the other hand, the pan gives you more freedom and finetuning with heat, tasting and adding spices if needed. Without further stalling, let's move on and show how you can always get your insects right!
Crunchy and probably the most neutral in flavour of them all, crickets are a perfect starter if you're new to insects. The easiest is to pre-heat the oven to about 150 degrees, place the crickets on a baking sheet in a tray, drizzle some oil over them and after 12 minutes in the oven they are crispy and done! Make sure to give the crickets a shake about halfway so they don't end up sticking to the baking sheet and are cooked all-around.
Want to feel like a true chef? Then don't use the oven but fry those crickets to perfection yourself in the pan. Put the heat on low to medium and sautée them until they are shiny and crispy. Usually this takes about 8 minutes, but depending on the heat, just keep an eye out to not let them burn.
If oil is too plain and boring for you, make sure to try these easy but tasty variations:
- Coat the crickets in soy sauce instead of olive oil to give them a salty flavour
- Mix some BBQ sauce and oil together and marinade the crickets in the mix for a little while before putting them in the oven to treat yourself with some BBQ crickets
Our favorite! Grasshoppers cooked well have an amazing taste, are crunchy and actually look quite cool too when they're used in recipes - which cannot be said of all insects unfortunately. Grasshoppers are a little bigger than crickets and therefore less delicate, so it's time to crank up the oven a little more. Make sure to remove the legs and the wings from the grasshoppers before you cook them, as these parts are not edible. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and do the exact same as with crickets: put them in for 12 minutes and check halfway through.
Because grasshoppers stand heat a bit better, they also work wonders when they're cooked in the pan. Put the heat on middle, and fry them until they look brown and crispy, which should take you somewhere between 8 and 12 minutes.
Grasshoppers are a typical Mexican dish, and to get the most out of them some spicy variations work very well:
- Mix some chili flakes, crushed garlic and soy sauce in a small bowl, and marinade the grasshoppers before frying them
- Or use lime juice instead of soy sauce to get true Mexican Chapulines - which work wonders in our recipe
Meal- and buffaloworms
Now we're getting towards the true creepy crawlers: worms. As said in the introduction: the smaller, the more delicate. And we have made it to the most delicate of edible insects. Doing these in the oven is definitely safer than in the pan. Similarly as to crickets, pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees and put the worms once the oven is hot in there for 10 minutes with some oil. Check and shake halfway through.
Frying meal- and buffaloworms in the pan is the trickiest of all. They burn relatively quickly if the heat is too high or if they're too long in the pan, so keep the heat quite low. Once they get a little bit darker of color and look crispy, they are good to go. You will never need more than 8 minutes to achieve this. If you do them in the pan, we have one final insider tip: butter! We barely cook with butter, but the worms burn less quickly in a fair amount of butter and they also get a milder taste because of it. Give it a try!
Worms have quite a strong earthy taste, and if they are cooked too long they also become quite bitter, making them well-suited for rich and flavourful marinades as well.
- Mix olive oil, syrup, salt and some garlic powder in a small bowl, and marinade the worms
- Make a mixture out of orange zest, oil, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt to get worms that remind you of a winter wonderland
Feel like you've mastered the basics of cooking with insects or is everything we wrote above simply way too boring? Definitely check out our recipes page to find plenty of inspiration and tasty recipes. If you don't want an entire recipe but some more adventurous ways to spice up your insects, then look no further as we have some cool ideas for you right here:
- Miso-mayonnaise marinated crickets
- Pad Thai marinated grasshoppers
- Chili-coconut panko-breaded grasshoppers
- Spicy orange marinated mealworms
- Cricket snack with sliced almonds, coconut and chili flakes and salt
- Sara G. Miller (Sep 7th, 2017). Raw Deal: Is 'Chicken Sashimi' Safe? LiveScience. Accessed March 29th, 2021 at https://www.livescience.com/60343-chicken-sashimi-salmonella-campylobacter.html