Octopus Tips and Recipes
When cooked properly, octopus is a tender, buttery, flavorful piece of meat. It tastes amazing in summer seafood salads and can even be added to potato salad for a unique flavor. You can also serve it alone, with a side of melted butter and a roll or on top of pasta. The key for these dishes to be as incredible as you would like them to be, however, is to cook them properly.
Basic Method for Cooking an Octopus – Braising Octopus
Octopus should always be cooked until just tender, to prevent a rubbery, overly chewy texture. One of the best methods for flavor, therefore, is braising. Braising involves simmering the meat in a few inches of liquid until it is tender and is best when done in a deep, even-heating skillet like a cast iron or ceramic pan.
For this simple method of cooking, you just need the amount of octopus you plan to cook and enough liquid to completely cover it. If you are not using wine, some people recommend adding vinegar to the pan because this breaks down the tough meat of the octopus sweetening it.
Ingredients for a Braised Octopus:
- 2-3 pounds octopus (for 4 servings)
- Enough braising liquid to cover the octopus
- ¼ cup vinegar
- The simplest recipe uses water with the vinegar to braise the octopus. Broth and wine are other popular options that give the octopus color and flavor.
- Extra virgin olive oil is a good choice if you want reassurance that the octopus will cook tender and moist.
Instructions to Braise an Octopus:
If you bought frozen octopus, it will be pre-cleaned. When buying fresh, you can ask the fisherman or seller to clean it for you. If you must do it yourself, wash and clean the outside of the octopus. Then, use a paring knife to make a circular cut around the beak of the octopus. Pull it away and the ink sac and internal organs should come away with it.
The amount of time that you cook the octopus depends on how quickly you want it to be done. You can place it in a deep skillet or pot and add enough of your braising liquid to cover. Add the vinegar and then bring to a simmer gently. Let this cook for 5 minutes and you will have a slightly chewy, but moist texture. For a tenderer octopus, follow the same procedure but set the temperature to a lower heat, just below a simmer. Allow the octopus to cook for 1 hour or more – depending on its weight, until moist and tender. It is done when a knife quickly and cleanly glides through the meat when inserted.
Here is a useful tip for cooking octopus: The timeliness in cooking for fresh versus frozen octopus is different from most meats. Instead of the frozen meat cooking slower, frozen octopus tends to get tender quicker than fresh octopus. Account for this in your cooking time to avoid overcooking.
How Do You Make Grilled Octopus?
This grilling recipe for octopus brings a powerful punch of flavor and that smoky flavor you can only get from grilled meat. You may even like it so much that you include it in the cuisine of your next backyard barbecue.
Ingredients to Grill Octopus
- 3 pounds octopus (cleaned)
- 3 lemons
- 1 garlic head (cut horizontally in half)
- 4 thyme branches
- 20 peppercorns
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste)
- Fresh black pepper (to taste)
- Minced parsley (garnish)
Instructions for Grilling Octopus
Add the octopus to a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Add the teaspoon of salt, 1 of the lemons (halved), the garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Set this to a medium heat, put a pan lid on top, and cook until it reaches a boil. Then, reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook 30-90 minutes (you will need longer for 1 large octopus than for 2 smaller octopi). Drain everything but the octopus. If you are not cooking yet, keep it covered and in the refrigerator until you are ready to grill.
Heat your grill to a medium-high temperature and place the grill rack about 4-inches above the heat. Cut the octopus into large servings and brush each piece with half the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and grill it quickly. You want the outside to be browned but you do not want to cook so long that the inside dries out.
Once cooked, brush the octopus with the olive oil that remains and garnish with fresh black pepper and parsley. Cut the lemons that you have left into wedges and serve alongside the octopus.
How Long Does it Take to Cook an Octopus?
The amount of time it takes to cook an octopus depends on the size of the octopus and the cooking method used. When octopus isn’t too large and cooked at higher temperatures, it can take just 5-10 minutes for it to be finished. When it is cooked using a slower method like baking or braising, it can take 2 hours or longer. Some baking recipes for octopus even require 4-5 hours of cook time. Always cook the octopus until just tender, with an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Long Does it Take to Cook Baby Octopus?
Like mentioned above, the size and weight of the octopus and how you are cooking it highly affects how long it must be cooked. You can boil baby octopus for a few minutes, or you can cook as long as 45 min using a braising method. The octopus is cooked all the way through when it is tender and easily pierced.
Flavorful, Delicious Recipes for Cooking Octopus
These tantalizing recipes will teach you how to cook octopus with flavor, each of them perfect for a different occasion.
Spanish Galician Octopus (Pulpo Gallego)
This recipe comes from the northwestern Spanish region known as Galicia, which explains its name. The octopus is drizzled with olive oil and smoked paprika. For a full meal, it is often served over a bed of boiled potato slices (cooked in the octopus water) and sauteed onions.
- 1 whole octopus (cleaned and rinsed well, about 2 ½ pounds)
- 1 yellow onion (medium, peeled and cut in half)
- 3 garlic cloves
- Sea salt to taste
- Sweet smoked Spanish paprika (to taste)
- Olive oil (for drizzling)
The best pan to cook this type of octopus in is a large stock pot that heats evenly, such as stainless steel or aluminum. Add the octopus to the pot and cover with water until it is submerged with at least 2-inches of excess water at the top. Add the onion and garlic and several pinches of sea salt. Cook the octopus over high heat until it reaches a simmer, then turn it down and gently simmer for 1-2 hours, until the octopus is tender.
Cut away the section of the octopus that has eyes and cut the rest of the head into small strips. Cut the tentacles into ½-inch thich round segments and arrange on a serving plate in a single layer. Sprinkle the pieces with salt and drizzle the olive oil on top. Finally, add a dusting of smoked paprika to your preferred taste.
Italian Style Stewed Octopus (Polpo in Umido)
This colorful, flavorful dish originates in a Puglia, which is a territory found near the heel of the boot. Here, the octopus is stewed with white wine and tomatoes. Small or baby octopi are recommended for this dish.
- Small or baby octopi (1 pound, cleaned)
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 4 tablespooons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped)
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill (chopped)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons capers (optional)
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the octopus into large chunks while you warm the olive oil to medium high heat. Saute the octopus for 2-3 minutes and then add the garlic and continue to saute until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Next, add the white wine and bring the octopus to a boil. Vigorously simmer for 3-4 minutes before adding the tomatoes and chili flakes. Bring this to a simmer before adding 1 teaspoon salt and the honey and mix well. Cover the pot and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
Then, add the capers, half the parsley, and half the dill. Check the octopus for doneness. If it is still chewy, cook longer- for up to an additional 45 minutes. About 10 minutes before the octopus has finished cooking, take the lid of the pot and turn up the heat so the sauce cooks down. Top with black pepper and the reaming parsley and dill before serving. This tastes great atop pasta or crisp bread.
Greek Marinated Octopus
This authentic Greek octopus recipe makes for a cool, flavorful dish. Once marinated, this can be grilled or served as is on top of a summer salad or in a seafood salad with lobster, shrimp, and other seafood. This is a pressure cooker recipe for octopus, but you can use a stovetop method instead- just remember to lengthen the cooking time.
- 4 ½ pounds octopus (defrosted if frozen, cleaned)
- 7 tablespoons wine vinegar
- 7 tablespoons liquid reserved from pressure cooker
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzle
- Greek oregano (ground, for garnish)
Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Place the octopus in and allow it to reach a boil, then cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and drain the liquid. Then, use cool water to remove the dark outer membrane of the octopus. If you cannot, that is okay.
Next, add the octopus to the pressure cooker and cover with water. Let this come to a boil before sealing. Once the right pressure is reached, reduce heat and allow the octopus to cook for 10 minutes. Next, do a quick pressure release and remove the octopus. Reserve 7 tablespoons of the liquid.
Let the octopus cool slightly before cutting into bite-sized pieces. Place these in a large bowl with the reserved water, wine vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir to combine. You should have enough marinade to completely cover the octopus- if not, use the same proportions to mix more. Let this sit in the refrigerator, covered, for 5-6 hours. Remove the octopus pieces from the marinade when you are ready to eat. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle the Greek oregano on top.
Due to its availability, octopus is not something that you can always find in a restaurant. Not only is making it at home more affordable, you are in complete control of the flavors and tenderness of your cooked octopus. Once you try out these recipes, don’t be afraid to experiment a little- octopus has a versatile flavor that tastes great with many flavor combinations.