Many people around the world eat insects without batting a lash, gagging, or thinking of childhood dares. They eat insects as snacks or main dishes as an abundant source of protein, healthy fats and minerals. Raising and harvesting insects for human consumption requires considerably fewer resources than livestock does, and releases much less greenhouse gases.
There are more than 1,900 edible insects on Earth. In this article we will focus on three easily accessible ones: crickets, mealworms, and waxworms. We’ll use a technique to get them cleaned and cooked that works well with many other insects too. How you prepare them after is completely up to your creative self.
Basic Starting Point
With live insects, it is best to put them in the refrigerator for at least an hour or until you are ready to use them. This will immobilize them by slowing their metabolism, which helps in the collecting and cleaning process. If you prefer, you can place them in the freezer for an hour, which will kill them, and then you can proceed without fear of reanimation.
Place the crickets (Figure A) in the freezer for an hour to eliminate the chance of any escape artists. Then pick them out of their container, being sure to leave any squished ones behind, and clean them by rinsing under cool water.
Mealworms are the larvae from the mealworm beetle. They have a very earthy flavor. They generally come in a bag with newspaper in it for them to crawl around in.
First, empty the mealworms into a deep bowl, something they can’t crawl up and out of, and remove them from the newspaper (Figure B).
Next, clean them up. I like to do this while they are still alive and a little slow from the fridge. You will find that there will be plenty of shed skin and a few dead worms, which are easy to find because they are generally darker in color (Figure C).
A trick that I found that is a huge help is blowing. Go outside where you can make a bit of a mess, put a handful in a shallow bowl and blow. You will blow all their shed skin away. After all the dead and shed skin are separated, give them a nice rinse and stick them in the fridge or freezer for an hour.
Waxworms (Figure D) are the caterpillar larvae of the wax moth. They have a very neutral flavor and take on what you cook them with.
Waxworks are pretty easy to clean. If they arrive in sawdust, take a large strainer and sift (Figure E). Some may squeeze through but it is a pretty painless process of cleaning. Pick out any black dead ones or ones that look like they are on their way out (Figure F). Give them a nice rinse and put them back in the fridge for an hour.
1. Boil a pot of salted water or prepare stock (savory or sweet). You’ll drain the insects quickly, so be ready.
2. Put in your insects. For crickets (Figure G), set your timer for 2 minutes. For mealworms or waxworms, 1 minute.
3. When time is up, drain them (Figure H), put them in a bowl, and quickly put them in the fridge to cool, about 15 minutes. Don’t rinse them.
4. When the insects are cooled, place them on a dehydrator sheet on top of the tray and dehydrate them until they are fully dry but not crunchy (Figure I).
If you are planning to roast them, you can skip the dehydrator and stick them directly onto a baking sheet and into the oven. Set the temperature to 200º F for 2 hours or until desired crispiness.
5. Store your crickets in a mason jar until ready to use; put mealworms and waxworms in a vacuum-sealed bag Figure J) or Ziploc bag with air removed. Keep in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. Enjoy!
Cooking with insects is easier than you might think! It doesn’t always have to be whole insects, dried out and crispy. Here are a few recipes you can make right now.
(UK style, not pancakes)
A sweet bar with a savory punch, thanks to mealworms.
If you didn’t tell your guests, they would probably have no idea their margarita rims were coated in mealworm. You probably should tell them though.
A great way to get people to try their first insect-infused meal. Nobody turns down cookies!
Perfect for a snack in your pack. These energy bars use cricket flour for an additional protein punch.
Just like regular brownies, but made with the protein of the future, crickets.
The world’s most popular food can be made with cricket flour as well!
This article appeared in Make: Volume 71. Subscribe today for more great how-to projects delivered right to your doorstep.