Range & Habitat: Conches are found in the more southern waters off the coast of Florida and in the Caribbean.
Identification & Biology: Conches are snails, and have one muscular foot with which they drag themselves around. They have brightly colored spiral shells, a pinkish body, and have spikes protruding from their shells.
Market Description: Most conches are purchased in their shells so they should look much as they do in water. If they’re already out of their shells, then the edible part is the small muscular foot, which is pale gray or tan in color.
In addition to being sold fresh, conch meat is also sold canned and frozen.
Buying tips: Buy them fresh still in their shells. Conch shells should be shiny and the meat firm and clean looking. It should smell fresh and of the sea. Summer is the peak season and the freshest conches will be found in specialty shops or Italian markets, since Italians have always considered these snails a delicacy
Recommended Preparation: Conch meat is most easily cooked by simmering in salted water or vegetable stock. It can also be cooked just slightly, removed from the shell, and then cooked in a sauce or stew. The rather tough meat is also frequently chopped and added to soups. One must also be very careful to cook it adequately as undercooked conch has been known to cause illness.