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char-grilled octopus ?

when i was in panama i had char grilled octopus that had the great char on the outside and was amazingly tender. i tried to duplicate, but i got the rubberized version. i simmered it (2 pounder) for about an hour. left it in olive oil and herbs overnight in the fridge and then flash charred it on the weber. where did i go wrong?

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  1. I'd love to know the answer to this myself, as I have been toying with the idea of making octopus at home. This week's Minimalist column had me feeling pretty brave; after that I dug up this 1999 piece by Bittman on octopus: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...

    The recipe in the article for grilled octopus seems to describe a method that is almost exactly the same as what you did. I might suggest that you try simmering the octopus longer, but going by the information in the article it seems as though 1 hour should be plenty long enough for a two-pounder.

    Hmm... puzzling.

    Where did you get the octopus from? Was it fresh or frozen?

    9 Replies
    1. re: lmoy

      I was in Spain years ago and had great a great pupo salad. We asked the cook how she made it. Her reply was, first you catch the octopus, then you beat it on a rock, boil it for 1 hour and then marinate it in the salad fixings.

      Maybe beat it on a rock or some how tenderize it.

      1. re: Vee7

        "then you beat it on a rock"

        Best. Recipe. Instruction. Ever.

        1. re: Dmnkly

          Been there, done that - didn't work for me. I bought a fresh octopus and beat the bangers out of it on my patio one Christmas Eve. I wondered what the neighbours were thinking. I bet you have to beat it as soon as you catch it. Maybe simmer not boil? Puzzling to me too.

          1. re: itryalot

            Oh, I've never tried it and I have no idea if it works. I just love the idea of recipes that involve the aggressive use of geologic formations :-)

      2. re: lmoy

        Would love the llink to the minimalist column. How do I find that myself?

          1. re: Vee7

            now i'm thinking that all octopus are not created equal. just like some cows are tougher that others.

        1. Mario Battali swears by cooking octos with a wine cork in the water. Souinds like an old wives tale, but I have never eaten any of his recipes that I found wanting.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Brandon Nelson

            Seems like every culture that cooks octopus has a method to tenderize it. The Italians swear by the cork. Can't see how there is enough of what ever is in the cork that would make a big difference. I vote for science and with the article below written by Harold McGee, I would trust it above all other opinions.

            1. re: Brandon Nelson

              Tried it; didn't help. Maybe I needed a lot more cork for the amount of octo.

              1. re: itryalot

                I found the cork method works really well. I used 1 cork from a bottle of red (makes a difference ..? more tannins?) with 10 or so baby octopus. Maybe the babies are more tender.

            2. To tenderize an octopus, get a painter's plastic drop cloth and cover your kitchen counter and backsplash. Tape it in place if you have to. Then hold the octopus by the head and beat the legs against the countertop as hard as you can. Repeat about fifteen times, more if it's a big octopus. Turn it about a quarter turn each time you beat it, and try to get as close to the head as possible. If you plan on stuffing and roasting the heat, hold the octopus by the legs and beat the head too. The tenderized legs can be fried, broiled, or even boiled. I wouldn't marinate them, but I would sprinkle them with a bit of garlic and/or onion powder, though it's really not necessary.

              Happy cooking...!

              7 Replies
              1. re: Caroline1

                Caroline1 - I salute you. Amazing post - love that you know how to dispatch an octopus, as well as uni and abalone. Thanks for posting this.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  Bless your heart. When we met, part of my second husband's job at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, was scuba diving to put specially equipped buoys in place for a deep sea wave scatter (radar) research project, and until we moved from Del Mar to El Paso years later after we were married, he caught about 80 to 90% of the proteins the family ate scuba diving. What a lovely way to live. You cannot imagine the "culture shock" of moving six hundred miles inland and suddenly having to buy everything you put on the table!

                  Since we're talking about octopus, I'll share an octopus tale. One time Rick brought home an exceptionally large catch, and when we sorted it all out, there was an adorable little live octopus among the larger critters. We lived on the beach, so I sent the kids out -- first and second grade by my first marriage -- to put some sand and ocean water in a huge globe fish bowl for the octopus. He seemed to be thriving, but on the third day, he was dead when we got up in the morning. I called Scripps and asked a marine biologist what we'd done wrong... "Well, basically you embarassed the poor creature to death. Octopus are extremely shy, and you should have put an empty tin can or an old cup or something for him to hide in." We grieved and gave the poor little octopus a "Viking's funeral."

                  It was a really magic time in our lives and we are so blessed. We lived a mile or two up the coast from Black's Beach, which was the only legal nude beach in the United States at the time. Black's Beach also had incredible tide pools, with star fish, sea cucumbers, anemones, all sorts of critters, including some of the most exotic and lovely nudabranchs (sea snails) in the world. The changes from the lack of sand in long shore drift has made those tide pools inaccessable by the route we used to walk. But they are part of my adult children's childhood, indellibly etched in their memories. They will be able to pass on tales of what the world used to be like to their kids for generations to come.

                  Ruth, thanks for the opening through which I could share these memories. '-)

                      1. re: Sharuf

                        Sorrry I'm so late! Black's Beach is (was?) at the foot of the cliffs of La Jolla Shores. For all I know, it may well b washed completely away today because of the lack of sand in long shore drift along the entire Pacific Coast (but it's getting better because they're blowing up hydro electric dams that were causing the massive erosion).

                        Way back in the 70's it was the only LEGAL nude beach in the United States! It got headlines in Playboy magazine. And pity the folks who lived in La Jolla Shores, along the top of the cliffs directly above it! Expensive homes that had hippies and such literally parking on their lawns on some days so they could take the short cut down a risky path that clung to the cliffs. Those homeowners had some real headaches to deal with!

                        The legal status of nudity at Black's Beach was withdrawn through a public election. It did NOT carry with the locals who had to put up with the cars parked on their lawns. NoooOOooOOoooo... It was the Bible thumping "red necks" of the back country who voted it out! <sigh> What's stranger than people????? '-)

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          As said in Seinfeld somewhere--repository of all important observations--"People! They are the worst."

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    I double bag my ocotopi and place them in the dryer (no heat - spin cycle) and give them a 45 minute spin. Then I boil. Marinate overnight and grill. Works great for the octopus. Makes my clothes smell fishy tho ;-)

                  2. we had some of the same at a greek restaurant in atlanta... they apparently brine, braise, then grill. we've been trying to duplicate it, and while we've gotten some tender octopus, never have we gotten it quite so tender. so this renews my interest. :) in looking around today, i found this article:

                    To Cook an Octopus: Forget the Cork, Add Science

                    1. There is no way I can take an octopus and beat it! Seems weird! I would just buy the pre-cleaned, pre-sliced frozen pieces. Maybe even pre-breaded! Octopus and eel are two things I know I couldn't deal with!

                      1. Mr G and I are made fisherpersons (?!) and often catch fresh octopodi. I have tried EVERY FREAKIN METHOD KNOWN TO MAN to get that texture, and I have to say, after years and YEARS of catching and cooking, bashing and smashing, brining and basting, I personally reckon that it depends on the season. Here in OZ, the smaller suckers, caught off the pier at night, in winter are better than the big ones caught off our boat in summer.

                        I have taken to keeping them alive in the holding tank, belting the cr@p out of them on the driveway as soon as I get them home, cleaning and slicing them up and then marinating them in full cream milk overnight in the fridge.

                        That works more often than not.

                        1. i had some incredibly tender octopus at Tailor in NYC a few weeks ago. The waiter told me they confit it in grapeseed oil for hours and the grill it on a plancha

                          1. The gold standard for octopus I would like to replicate is served at Nogrosal, in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. It is grilled with a dry chipotle rub, Incredibly tender, huge portion (enough for 2-3 to share as an appetizer), $16.
                            I have failed miserably with the frozen cut up sections, which is all I seem to have access to in central Florida. The best I've done could be described as chewy, chipotle flavored, prison food. I know fresh would be a better start, but I'm learning here that beating the s**t out of fresh ones may be part of the path to success.
                            I propose that if we ever close the Guantanamo prison, that we convert it to an octopus tenderizing facility :)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Veggo

                              Well, you know, I'm beginning to wonder, with all of these reports, whether how long you cook the critter after pounding the bejeezus out of it has anything to do with how tender it is. I always always always cooked mine immediately after pounding. Did it with fresh caught and store bought, and they were all equally tender. So now I'm wondering if octopi have some sort of regenerative neurological thing going on that makes them reknit their injured tissue to function again... even after death? Maybe the spinal chord injury scientists need to take a closer look at octopi, ya think?

                            2. All I know from talking to some folks who have made remarkably good octopus is:
                              If you undercook it, it will be chewy;
                              If you overcook it, it will be chewy;
                              Even if you buy a fresh one, you should freeze it overnight, because the freezing process breaks down and softens the flesh.
                              The beating part, i was told, is a traditional and effective method for de-inking your octopus. Whether its also effective as a tenderizing technique, i'm not sure.
                              EU in Manhattan made the best Octopus I have ever, ever had. The freezing tip came from their head chef. He since left, and I don't know where to, but since then the Octopus at EU is totally disappointing.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: doctorwho92

                                A little late with this post but had to share. My absolute favorite octopus dish is from the Water Works in Philly. I just found the entire technique from the Water Works chef on how they make it.


                                1. re: md_massimino

                                  Thanks for the interesting link. I'm looking at cooking my first octopus now, and this looks like a promising approach.

                              2. I have tried over the years many of the tricks with various degrees of success. Tenderizing alone by beating the poor thing has not worked for me. However, in combination with the three-dips technique, t has worked sometimes. The technique calls for dipping the octopus three times in the hot water for a second or two before putting the whole thing into the water. Timing is also a factor, and under or overbooking it results in rubbery octopus. However, now I only use baby octopi. I find it in my local supermarket defrosted. I jus put in directly on the grill, after marinating according to the recipes for only a few minutes. Some recipes call for overnight marinates, but I still only do about 10 minutes or so. Then grill it in each side for 3 minutes. For extra smokiness, I sprinkle some paprika before grilling. The trick is to serve and eat it in the next 15 minutes. When it first comes out of the grill, it is still tender. After 15 minutes, it becomes rubbery. I now don't ever bother to buy the big octopus. The baby ones are so tender that you do not need to boil them before grilling then , and then they only become rubbery if do not eat them fast enough. Do not overcook though.

                                1. On a cooking show with a guest chef from Hawaii (I think it was one of Guy F's shows)...

                                  They simply put the Octopus in the Kitchen Aid stand mixer for about 10 minutes....If you have aggressions then beating in on the counter seems like a good way to go.

                                  Past that I pick the stand mixer:-)

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: sparky403

                                    Expensive octopus-beating attachment involved?

                                    1. re: sparky403

                                      I always beat my octopodi outside on the breakfast patio, then hosed it down afterward. I may not have flayed them to death if I'd had to do it inside, BUT....! I have to say that the greatest advantage to my "cat of nine tails" method is that it tenderizes the octopus equally in every little nook and cranny and sucker! I would beat them vigorously, not skin them, then cut the arms into 2 inch pieces, shake them in a bag of seasoned flour, French fry no more than two minutes, then fight the kids for them while they were hot! I'm scared of seafood like octopus and sea urchin that isn't fresh caught within the last four hours... But I think my 99 Ranch Market has live octopus some times... heh heh heh Octopus tempura! :-)