Long before they graced seafood platters, whelks, like many shellfish, have been eaten by humans for as long as they have existed. However, probably because of their culinary limitations, they have not left a great mark on the history of cooking.
The common whelk is also known as a buckie or waved whelk in Great Britain, buccina in Italy, and buccino or caracolillo de Bruselas in Spain.
While its official name in French markets is bulot, depending on the region it is also known as calicoco, torion, killog, bavoux, and burlaud, among others.
In Normandy, the region with the highest production in France, fishermen have taken steps to protect the resources of this very popular shellfish by applying for PGI status for the Bay of Granville whelk.
The minimum regulation size for its capture is 4.8 cm. The larger the whelk, the tougher its flesh. A freshly caught whelk has ivory-colored flesh; If it is pink or beige, then it is not fresh.
Whelks are sold alive, but also cooked in their shells, or cooked and frozen.
Before use, live whelks need to be soaked for about ten minutes in cold water, and then thoroughly rinsed.
They cook quickly (10–12 minutes, depending on their size) in salted water with a little vinegar, which can be seasoned or not, from cold. Cooking them for too long will make their flesh tough.
They are traditionally served with mayonnaise, aïoli, or snail butter. Taken out of their shells, they can also be prepared as tartar, sautéed in a pan with garlic, combined with other shellfish or vegetables, with pasta, or even in risotto.
Live or cooked whelks can be kept in the refrigerator or cool room for 24–48 hours at 4ºC.
If frozen steaks, they should be kept in the freezer without breaking the cold chain.
Whelks are a good source of nutrition. They contain a good deal of protein and, most importantly, significant amounts of all the minerals and trace elements. The only downside is that they are high in cholesterol.