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Dec 5, 2002 11:33 AM

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?