Octopus can be an intimidating ingredient to work with at first, especially because it is delightful when it is cooked properly, but it can be devilish to cook, going from tender to rubbery. Many times we have clients asking us about the best ways to make it. Some confess they have never tried making octopus – even though they love it – because they are afraid of not “getting right”. Well, just like everything in life, practice makes perfect, and when it comes to octopus, practicing might be the way to achieve perfect, delicious dishes. And it’s not that difficult, after all.
The first step is to get it ready to be cooked. If cooking from frozen, thaw your octopus for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator, ensuring that the meat is totally defrosted before moving on. If your recipe asks to cut the meat before cooking, use a sharp chef’s knife or kitchen shears to remove each tentacle from the body by cutting it off at the base while the octopus lies flat on the cutting board. Though the octopus head meat is flavourful, and can definitely be included, you’ll want to remove the beak and ink sac before cooking and serving. While many pre-frozen octopuses will already have these removed, if you’re buying your octopus fresh, ask the seller to clean the body before wrapping up the product.
Now comes the fun part. How are you cooking your octopus?
- Boiling – Fill a pot 2/3 full with water – you may add some herbs and vegetables of your choice to the water to give the octopus some flavour. Gently boil the octopus for about 15-20 minutes per pound of octopus, testing the texture with a fork every 10-15 minutes until it has become fully tender and ready to serve. (Side note: you may use this boiling method as a first step to tenderize your octopus before finishing it in a pan or on the grill for additional flavor and texture).
- Grilling – Considered by many as the most delicious way to cook octopus, you need to do this method in two steps: first of all, boil it to make sure the meat is completely tenderized before adding it to the grill. To keep things simple and delicious, coat the pre-cooked octopus in olive oil and dress with salt, pepper and parsley before adding it to a high-temperature grill. After about 4-5 minutes on a covered grill, flipping once during the cooking time, the octopus should be perfectly browned and ready to dress with whatever flavours you want (herbs are always a success).
- Roasting – This is more time consuming, but oh so delicious as well. Simply sprinkle the octopus with a little salt and place it on a foil-covered baking sheet before covering the meat with another layer of foil and crimping the edges to create a completely contained cooking environment. Place the octopus on a low rack of a 250 degree oven for up to 2 hours, occasionally checking on the meat’s texture by piercing it with a fork until its reached your preferred tenderness level.
There are some people who also braise, poach or pan fry octopus. Equally delicious! Let us know your favourite method.