David George Gordon, author of The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook, offers tips on how to (and how not to) cook with insects.
He'll be on hand to answer questions at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University's Bug Fest, Aug. 8 and 9, 11 a.m. to noon and 3 to 5 p.m. His insect cooking show starts at 1 p.m.
1. Buy, don't scavenge.
The backyard and basement are not the best places to source insect-ingredients. "The big problem is pesticides. If the bugs have been eating pesticides, you can become a bioaccumulator and wind up storing all that pesticide in your body." Grocers, online purveyors or, if you're willing to pay more, pet stores and bait and tackle shops sell consumable crickets, etc.
2. Bite allergy? Beware.
"Some people are allergic to insects and spiders," he said. Those people shouldn't eat them. Ditto folks with shellfish allergies. "Lobster, crabs or shrimp are closely related enough [to insects] that insects can trigger an allergic reaction."
3. Freeze 'em.
Got a box of live scorpions? "Freezing is a good way to go. [The insects] are cold-blooded, and basically drift off to a deep sleep from which they never awaken." Once they're in, they'll last, too. "In theory, they don't get freezer-burned because they have all that body armor all over them."
4. Low temp, short time.
Bugs' body armor makes them self-contained steamers. Their small size necessitate quick prep, low temperatures. "There's always a danger of overcooking bugs."
5. Start easy.
"Crickets and mealworms are probably the easiest to get started with. It's harder to screw those up." Just roast them in the oven at 225 degrees for 30 minutes.
6. Eat some whole. Not others.
Smaller insects - black ants, crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers - are one-bite deals. The best eating on a tarantula is its muscular legs. (The fangs are edible, but . . . ) "On scorpions, like lobster, I really like the claws and the tail."
7. Grow your own.
Prefer crispy critters to potato chips? They're easier to cultivate than tubers. "If you have a garage or an outbuilding, you can grow it into a cricket farm."