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Tenderizing octopus

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How would I go about tenderizing octopus before grilling over charcoal? How long do you grill it?



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  1. I think I would just grill it on a high heat for a short period of time. no reason to tenderize as long as it is cooked fast and short.

    1. I've never done full-size octopus on the grill. However, I do baby octopus frequently and there is no need to tenderize them. I toss then in olive oil, lemon juice and herbs and grill for a couple of minutes. Grill too long and they're tough and rubbery, too short and you don't get that great char.

      1. Until it talks. The more intimidating you are, the quicker it should go.

        (but seriously, folks) Great question. I've had good luck with squid on the grill, but I've been nervous about turning octopus to rubber with the same technique.

        1. I was born in Greece and returned for summer vacations every year throughout my childhood. One of my favorite memories is that of watching local fishermen beating freshly caught octopus against the rocks in the harbor before throwing it on a wood fired grill. They claimed this is the best way to tenderize it, and I remember nothing but the most juicy, succulent octopus appetizers consumed dockside after a day at the beach.

          Lacking a rocky Greek harbor in my neighborhood, I'd consider whacking them around with a meat cleaver if they are exceptionally large and tough looking.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Fargo
            JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

            Reminds me of the time on Iron Chef that they were doing octopus... some tips I got from that one are:

            -Always get your seafood as fresh as possible. Still moving is best.
            -When deep-frying octopus (and you got it as fresh as possible, simply place the octopus in the breading. As the octopus wriggles around, it breads itself, saving you lots of time and effort in the kitchen.
            -The easiest way to tenderize an octopus is to beat the living daylights out of it with a blunt object. While a meat tenderizer can be used, you can infuse the octopus with some additional flavor by using a daikon radish (Yes, the Iron Chef did this!). An added bonus of this is that your guests will never believe what they saw you doing to a dead octopus.

            1. re: Fargo

              Most octopus sold in the US has been previously frozen. In this case no tenderizing is necessary.

              I have never grilled an octopus, but I just checked the usually reliable "Flavors of Greece" by Rosemary Barron. She suggests cooking the octopus the day before in two cups of white wine plus enough water to cover. Time depends on the size of the octopus (1 1/4 hours for a 5 lb octopus). From personal experience, I can tell you that at this point the octopus tentacles should be tender enough to be easily pierced with the point of a knife.

              Before grilling make a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. Cut up the octopus and coat with the marinade. Before placing on the grill, sprinkle the pieces with salt and pepper. Grill a few minutes on either side, brushing occasionally with the marinade.

              Pat G.

              1. re: Pat Goldberg

                Glad to see some props for Rosemary Barron's book. I love it; can say that this is one cookbook in which every recipe I've prepared NEVER failed to please. To add to the tips Pat has provided, Barron actually gives directions on how to clean a whole octupus as well, paraphrased below.

                Remove eyes, mouth and inside of head. Rinse in several changes of water before proceeding with the wine bath Pat has described. One other step, following the wine bath and before the grilling, if you are dealing with a whole, adult octopus: cut off legs and leave whole; and quarter head, peeling off the skin and suckers to expose the pale pink flesh. Then proceed with marinade and grilling as described above.

                I've used Barron's marinade for octopus, using baby octopus, but have never attempted it with a whole adult one. Fish King in Glendale, CA sells whole cleaned baby octopus in their freezer section, which are very easy to work with, and tasty too.

                1. re: DanaB

                  I didn't include the "how to clean" stuff because the previously frozen ones are always cleaned, insofar as I know.

                  But if you are planning to beat them into submission, then you will need to clean them.

                  Pat G.

              2. re: Fargo

                They also hang them up in the sun outside restaurants and caf├ęs, which is quite a sight when you're not used to it!

              3. Boil it, don't grill it. In Spain they put into large pots, boil, then cut the tenticles with sissors and stick with a toothpick and dip into a little vinegar. Great stuff.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Paul

                  Use a pressure cooker, cook the octopus for 25 minutes, with no water, it will cook on own liquid. After this, will be ready for use in any preparation. You can even use the liquid for doing a octopus risoto.

                  1. re: meirelles

                    Your method sounds similar to the way I last did it. I used a method from Harold McGee who suggested a quick blanch followed by a dry roast in the oven in a covered dutch oven. The octopus will give off a lot of it's liquid so it will be cooking in it's own juices. It's cooked until tender.

                    Somehow I just can't get my head around the cork. Doesn't seem like there would be enough of what ever the mystery ingredient is in a cork to make that much of a difference.

                2. take about 10 wine corks and blanch the octupus in salted water with the corks. after that marinade in olive oil ad lemon/ oregano , overnight, then grill

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: brianllieberman

                    I've only used one cork, but cooked the whole octopus for about 45 minutes. Recently I bought some lovely tiny octopi and grilled them, but I didn't cook them long enough and would, as you say, blanch and marinated them. I cooked the left over ones in water with a cork for about 15 minutes, to then add them to a seafood risotto.

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        For some reason, it tenderizes the octopus. I had read about it on CH, and then in one of Batali's books, he recommends it as well.

                  2. I have given up trying to tenderize octopus, trying to replicate a delicious appetizer at a great restaurant in Mexico. I have beat it like Mike Tyson on meth during PMS, to no avail. Fresh babies I can handle and I have a good dry rub for grilling them, but they are hard to find.

                    1. I'm not Greek, but the "Greek" method mentioned above is the only way to fly if you want a tender octopodi! When we lived in CA, my scuba diving husband would frequently bring home fresh caught octopus, and if he didn't, I had a great Asian market where they were cheap, cheap, cheap.

                      Using painters tape and a cheap plastic film painter's drop cloth from Walmart (99 cents) tape plastic sheet to cabinet above your widest (cleared) counter top. Contour plastic over counter so you have lots of flat open space. Standing a bit back from the counter top while holding the octopus by the head, flail the legs mightily against the counter top. Repeat. About ten or fifteen times should do it. Rotate the critter with each lash so the legs are all tenderized equally. If you plan on using the head (it can be stuffed for a great "Neptune's haggis") hold the octopus by the feet and bash the head. Several times. Proceed with carving and cooking.

                      If yu're fortunate enough to have a picnic table in the yard, that's also an excellent place to tenderize octopi. Or any huge outcrop of rock will do.

                      I only ever cooked an octopus without tenderizing first once in my life. It was a convincing lesson on why all octopi, fresh or frozen, should be tenderized before cooking. I often cut the tentacles into two or three inch sections, then dropped them into a paper bag with well seasoned flour prior to deep fying them. Mykids ate them like candy.

                      When cleaning the octopus, especially if you plan on using the head, be sure to remove the beak, which is located in the center of the tentacles beneath the head. It is the critter's teeth, and not at all chewable or digestable.

                      For what I lovingly call "Neptune's haggis," be sure to rinse out the head well. You can turn it inside out, inspect it, remove any bits that don't look appetizing, then turn it right side out and stuff. I have used all sorts of spur-of-the-moment stuffings that used ingredients ranging from the diced tentacles to a conglomerate of sea foods that included abalone, shrimp, mussels, sea limpets, pre-cooked sea cucumbers, and any other silly sea creature that got caught. I often used French (or other) bread crumbs in the dressing, along with olive oil, fresh herbs, chopped celery, or practically any any stuffing recipe will do. Then roasted it in the oven on a baking sheet, tented at first, then uncovered for browning at the end.

                      Good eats!

                      EDIT I omitted some important information about Neptune's haggis. I usually closed the opening with either a small skewer or with a very large needle and twine, then roasted it seam side down.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Caroline1

                        My friend is the president of a Japanese seafood company. His favorite food is tako or octopus. Whenever we have dinner parties he throws octopus (fresh or formerly frozen) into a large pot of hot salted water and cooks until tender. He then slices it and that is the house appetizer. So easy and so delicious.