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How long to boil an octopus??

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I've seen recipes that say anywhere from 30-40 minutes to 2 hours for the same size mollusk. I have a 2lb thawed octopus. What's the best way to do this? Cut it up first? Just use the tentacles? I plan to saute it with garlic, olive oil, herbs and lemon juice when it's done boiling.

Thanks in advance for any info!

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  1. I thought it took about an hour, whole. Obviously less if cut up. I would think you could start checking it after 45 minutes with a fork, and remove it as soon as it's tender.

    For what it's worth, I've always read that you MUST place a cork in the pot when boiling octopus. Not sure of the science behind it, but it's in every recipe I've ever read.

    Good luck.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Pappy

      Not that it's overly technical, but all my websearching could yield was that there is an enzyme in the cork that tenderizes octopus. Another argument for continuing to seal wine with natural cork.

      1. re: cypressstylepie
        Caitlin McGrath

        Or better, a new marketing scheme for the cork industry.

      2. A side point: I think a key point to making tender octopus is to let it cool to room temperature SLOWLY (one book suggests 8 hours for an octopus of your size). A Korean friend of mine says the best thing to do is, once the octopus is cooked, remove from heat still in the water, and allow the octopus to come to room temp. along with the water (which, I imagine, will happen even slower than an octopus cooled in the air). She makes the best octopus I've ever eatern.

        Another pointer is to not let too much cooking liquid evaporate, or the octopus will harden.

        As far as cooking, I peeked in my Japanse Cooking A Simple Art, which lists a complex method of preparing octopus for cooking (I can write it up if you like). Then he steam/simmers his (2 1/4 - 3 1/2 pound) octopus for 1 1/2 hours. Hope this helps.

        1 Reply
        1. re: adam

          I've also heard that freezing the octopus (before cooking) tenderizes it beautifully, somehow. A favorite trick of chefs?

        2. I seem to recall hearing or reading that octopus, like squid, should be cooked either quickly, or for a long time. Never cooked one, but some day will experiment. Love it Greek style.

          1. I haven't tried this way, but I saw a chef on TV (Italian, I think) cook a large octopus in very little time. She put the whole octopus in a large saucepan, lid on, with NO water, and turned the heat on slow. As the octopus heated up, it released fluid, and as the cooking progressed, it soaked up the fluid again. She made the point that when the octopus has released and reabsorbed all the fluid, it is cooked, and ready for any recipe in which you wish to include it. No bashing or other tenderising needed!

            This particularly annoyed me at the time, because a day or two previously, I had attempted my first large octopus and gone through the whole routine of long slow boiling, skinning, scalded fingers and all the other temperamental joys that go with it, all for a very ordinary result. Still intend to have another go one of the ways the lady said, but since then I have stuck with baby octopus, blanched, the marinated in balsamic, olive oil and garlic and thrown on the BBQ plate or a cast iron pan. Thoughts?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Phil
              Pat Goldberg

              This was probably Lidia Bastianich, who has such a recipe. It involves braising with a little olive oil, a fair amount of garlic, a couple of sprigs of parsley and a bay leaf, as well as crushed red pepper. She puts it head side down into a heavy casserole with a cover. Over medium heat, she waits until some of the juices appear and it begins to simmer. Then she covers it and turns the heat very low. It cooks at this heat for 3/4 - 1 hour, with the casserole being shaken occasionally. The test is that a fork put into the thickest part of the beast encounters a bit of resistance but comes out easily. She remarks that the liquid left in the pot should be "syrupy, purple-reddish in color, and flavorful." She recommends serving it with polenta.

              1. re: Phil

                Im trying it this way today, so far so good. I added no water and look how much it has released on it own...wish me luck

                1. re: CristinaPacheco

                  Harold McGee suggested a similar dry method

                  I've done it and it work really well. The octopus was tender and I finished it off briefly on the grill

              2. I buy the small octopi, bring them home and boil right away for c. 2 hours in salted water. Then I either use them then or freeze so they're ready to use the next time. I reduce the stock and save it for chowders, seafood soups, etc. In the past I've used larger octopi. I split them lengthwise or sometimes quarter them lengthwise before boiling. Then I keep checking them after 2 hours for tenderness. If some pieces get tender sooner, remove them with some of the stock and put aside. It's really easy to do. I'm Japanese and we never used corks! My octopi always come out super tender with an excellent flavor! The reduced stock contains a lot of collagen and will be a pretty purply-pink color.

                4 Replies
                  1. re: alkapal

                    I've only cooked an octopus twice, and used a cork both times, using the method in Molto Italiano, which includes a cork - my husband said it was the most tender octopus he's ever had. My recollection is that you cook it for about an hour, at most.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      ok, i really hadn't gotten around to tossing my corks just yet. ;-).

                      'cause if mario says it, i'm there!!! i loved molto mario.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        hey mmruth! regarding mario batali's recipe of baby octopus with bavete and little tomato sause or condimento (whatever he call), i thought about boiling time of 15 mins of 2 pounds of baby octopus and imagin them to be very tender but what about the taste of baby octopus. even though baby octoupus became very tender, i think the flavour of baby octopus may be lost during the boiling process.
                        so i am a little confused.
                        when i cooked lobster spaghetti, i warmed the half-cooked lobster meats in tomato sauce, suprisingly the flavour of lobster was infused with that of right amount of tomato sauce. is the boiled baby octoups with wine cork is similar case?

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      In Spain, one would traditionally beat the fresh octopus (the fishermen would beat the octopi against the rocks on the shore or beat the octopi with a rolling pin at home or throw it against the side of the sink) to tenderize the meat. Common practice now involves freezing fresh octopus to tenderize. The next step is to "scare" the octopus by quickly dipping the octopus in boiling water about 3 times and then boil until tender (for 2lbs, I'd check on the octopus atfter 35 -40 minutes to see if it's tender). I fell in love with Galician style octopus in Spain (Pulpo a la Gallega or Pulpo aLa Feria). It is essentially slices of cooked octopus and sliced boiled potatoes sesaoned after cooking with salt, paprika, and olive oil.

                      1. re: BigSal

                        Just came back from Barcelona and I must have eat octopus everyday prepared as described in your method. Will be doing it tomorrow! (I brought back real smoke and hot paprika from Ibiza!

                        1. re: lucdesaulniers

                          Welcome back and enjoy re-creating the delicious tastes of Spain!

                    2. If you want to saute it, why on earth are you boiling it? I've cooked many an octopus, but only a few were froaen instead of fresh aught, but in all cases I tenderized them by pounding them. But I have no idea whether you're using a recipe. On the other hand, if you were, it would specify cooking times. If you'd like more information on how to tenderize, just ask.

                      1. Boil in salted water. Start checking after an hour. You will know when it's tender because you can cut it with a fork! Best way to gauge is to eat a sample. I usually allow 2 hours for baby octopus. If you have some papain (papaya enzyme), it will speed the process. If cooked correctly, it will not be chewy at all. Afterwards, you can use it any recipe. I keep some boiled octopus in the freezer so I have some whenever I need it. My favorite is in salads.

                        1. Hi folks, just Melissa from Nicaragua needing advice.
                          I went to Masachapa today and bought myself a 2lb fresh octopus, cleaned all nice and pretty, $7.55
                          Now, that's pretty high for what I pay for all my seafood. Manta ray's only $1 and lobsters are $2.50, so needless to say, I wanna make sure I do this octopus properly.
                          I've read through all the comments and have decided to bring a pot of salted water to a boil, drop the whole octopus in, reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Then I will remove from heat and let cool (in the pot).
                          Do I have this right as far as the tenderizing part goes? I've got all kinds of ideas on what to do next, I just wanna make real sure that I get this baby tender.
                          Thanks for your help!!!
                          -who's ready to play in the kitchen after buying 30lbs of seafood today! :)

                          5 Replies
                            1. re: alkapal

                              I finally got around to playing with that 2 pound octopus I bought at the beach. It had been frozen by me, so I thawed it, brought a pot of water to a boil, added a little salt, dunked the creature in a few times to curl the tentacles, then dropped it into the water, turned off the heat and covered. I let it cool in the pot of water, about 7 hours or so, then bagged it and put it in the fridge. (I've been pretty busy creating Muscovy duck recipes the past few weeks so the octopus had to be fitted in when I had time.)

                              I decided to make a Japanese style ceviche with half of the octopus, using several ingredients from my finca, but it came out so tasty that I ended up slicing the rest of the octopus for a second batch! Here's the recipe for the first batch:

                              In a bowl, add
                              2 cups of thinly sliced tentacles
                              5 T minced culantro leaves
                              1/2 red onion, sliced very thin
                              2 fresh pickling cucumbers, scrubbed and sliced thin
                              (this type of cuc is awesome in ceviche or fresh salad dishes cause they're so darn crisp and sweet!)

                              Make a marinade of
                              6 T lime juice
                              2 tsp sour orange juice
                              1 tsp soy sauce
                              1/2 tsp sea salt
                              1/2 tsp grated ginger
                              1/2 tsp grated garlic cloves
                              1/2 tsp black pepper
                              1 1/2 tsp finely minced chili cabro hot pepper, seeded

                              Stir well then pour over octopus and chill for 1 hour in the fridge. Serve with crackers and cold beer. You might wanna double this recipe...I had to for just me and my hubby, it was that tasty.

                              1. re: catahoula fan

                                The Water Works in Philly makes the best grilled octopus, totally love it! I found a video of the chef from there giving very detailed steps on how they do it, check it out:


                                1. re: catahoula fan

                                  thanks for the report.

                                  was the octopus tender? your ceviche looks good. the octopus has a pretty color.

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Check your frozen octopus; some commercial frozen is already boiled and skinned. If it is no you can boil rapidly for about 10 minutes, remove let coolo until you can handle it. Use a rough towel to remove the skin by grasping it with the towel and pulling it along the tentacle. This easilyu removes the skin. The tentacles are probably the best part of the octopus. If you use the head remove the "beak",, it is identified by the hard cartilage. When we catch a lot of these beauties; I boil, skin and freeze trhem all, as most recipes start with it boiled then it is sauteed, baked, etc. The exception being a true ceviche. Frutta di mare salads are boiled first.