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Octopus quest

I read the main octopus threads on this site and tried cooking one for the first time this last week. It was a rubbery failure, but I'm going to keep at this some more.

A first point to make is that I'm not sure I've ever encountered an ingredient with more variety and mystery in the lore about how to make it tasty.

I followed a recipe from one of the threads, from a restaurant that poaches the octopus 20 minutes in red wine vinegar and then marinates it for three days in a vinaigrette before a quick (few minutes) grilling. The fellow in the video for that recipe said that his octopi came from Spain and were "prepped" there, but I also read threads that tell of freezing itself as a sufficient tenderizing element for octopus. Given that mine was from frozen, I didn't do any of the pounding, bashing, smashing, etc., recommended by many cooks.

So now I'm posing two questions:

1. Any ideas about how to go with the next one? I'm thinking some smashing with a mallet.

2. What the heck are the little round things, sized rather like Israeli cous-cous, on my plate? I'll attach some pictures.

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  1. The round things are the suckers from the tentacles. They easily fall off after the octopus has cooked.

    I totally agree with you regarding the mystery around cooking it as well as all the “old wives” tips for cooking. Some of the ones I have heard: Cook it with a wine cork, with an onion, only cook Spanish/Portuguese Octopus, etc.

    The closest we have come to an edible octopus, and this was our 4th attempt, was cooking it overnight in the slow cooker. We then following the recipe in the cookbook "How to Roast a Lamb" for the most part. However, it was a 4 pound Portuguese octopus that shrunk to 1/6th of its original size bringing tears to my husband’s eyes. The consensus was that it doesn’t need to cook that long so next time we will only cook it for 4 hours. I was just glad it was edible . . . finally!

    1. I too was bamboozled by the myriad opinions on cooking octopus.

      I found this article to be very helpful.


      I recently cooked a two pounder and a seven pounder and I have had good success by using the following method:

      Brining in a salt solution for a couple of hours.

      Plunging the octopus into boiling water for about 15 seconds

      Turning the heat down immediately to 185 degrees – just below a simmer (add a couple tablespoons of cold water to the pot to reduce the heat). I did not cover the pot so that I could keep an eye on the water temp.

      The time needed to tenderize will rely on the size and, I guess, age of the octopus.

      But, I think that you should begin checking for tenderness after 45 minutes.

      At this point you can follow any recipe you like. I make a marinade / dressing with lemon / olive oil / parsley / salt and pepper and brush them all over then I grill them until crispy edges appear then again dress them with lemon / garlic / parsley etc. or just cut them into chunks and dress them.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Unkle Al

        My one and only time cooking an octopus I used Mcgee's method with excellent results.

        1. re: Unkle Al

          I cooked my first one recently! I too read the billions of recipes out there and ended up going with pretty much the same idea. Brought a giant pot of water to boil. Stuck in the octopus then left it at a bare simmer for about an hour. Afterwards I just used it how I liked. Part of it went into a tomato based stew and the other into takoyaki. Both went well.

        2. 20 minutes? Not nearly long enough which is why it was tough. Overnight cooking is too much as cooking too long also makes it tough. I first tried octopus after reading the minimalist's column in the NYT several years ago. Need to cook until tender but stop there.

          here's the link

          1. Freezing makes no difference, and 20 minutes is too short, unless its octopus for sashimi. Cook it at least 45 minutes, better an hour...but don't cook it too long or it will get soft. I'd rather have tough chewy octopus than soft octopus, but the best is a balance between tenderness and chewiness.

            1. If I remember correctly, you also started another post about vinegar substitutions where you needed red wine vinegar bit didn't have enough. You really needed to use the full amount of RWV that the recipe called for. It was a tenderizer, not a flavoring agent. The acidity of the RWV is what helps tenderize the octopus.

              2 Replies
              1. re: boogiebaby

                I appreciate your awareness of the other post!

                I can't yet agree about the acid issue, because I did try to duplicate the ph. level with other vinegars (white, champagne, etc) but it was indeed a bit lower, because I used some rice wine vinegar. But that stage was also only for the initial 20 minutes of poaching. Could that really be so decisive?

                Compared to the video recipe I followed, the biggest difference seems to me most likely to be another point that the chef indicated: his octopus comes from Spain already "prepped," and he says that the restaurant itself therefore doesn't need to do more with the octopus prior to the procedure. I am pretty sure that the stuff arrives to him already pounded out a bit.

                Anyway, I wil keep experimenting and report when useful.

                1. re: Bada Bing

                  The secret has got to be in a lengthly tenderizing marinade, and/ or boiling for some time. I have pounded them mercilessly, including fresh ones in Mexico, and failed every time. I'm having to make do with the canned stuff from Goya and La Tienda, but I would sure like to grill it tender with a dry rub. Mysterious critters indeed.

              2. Rather than just give one link, here's several from Batali. You definitely don't pound them.


                1. I wish I had had a chance to ask the chef at Negrosal in Q. Roo how he prepared his succulent grilled octopus. But Negrosal is no longer, and I'm groping with only two arms. It was so good, it makes one want to find the way to duplicate it.

                  1. A Portuguese friend gave me a great method for tender, grilled octopus and it works great every time. Start with frozen octopus. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the frozen octopus and keep it at a very slow simmer for one hour. Turn the burner off and let it sit for another hour. Remove octopus from the pot, rub with a little olive oil and grill for a few minutes. Cut it in bite sized pieces, season with salt and pepper and add good quality extra virgin olive oil, garlic and parsley.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: principessa del pisello

                      Theres a favorite Portuguese joint in Montreal where I love love love their grilled octopus. Earlier in the summer, I bought a package of 2 cleaned, frozen octopus, perhaps under a pound apiece with thoughts of recreating the restaurant's version.
                      I prepared it pretty much as principessa dp describes, with the addition of onion, garlic, and red wine in the boiling liquid: Boil 1 hour, turn off heat, let cool.
                      Remove from water, drizzle with olive oil, char over hot coals (flip a few times). Drizzle more oil, thinly sliced onion, and a few tablespoons of capers.
                      It was almost exactly the same as at the restaurant, tender, just enough chew, and I enjoyed it immensely.
                      Made it the same way 3 times since.

                      1. re: principessa del pisello

                        It's my understanding that freezing octopus tenderizes it, so no further tenderizing is necessary is you buy your octopus already frozen. Unless one lives on a coast, most of the octopus we see in the market has been frozen at some point.

                        1. re: LorenzoGA

                          I have had several disappointments with thawed frozen octopi. I'm going with the pot of hot water next. I have had the same frustration with fresh never frozen in Mexico.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            Hmm. I've only cooked octopus once, and it came out tender. I was somewhat surprised, since threads like this one had prepared me for failure. Sometimes I wonder if those in the know want to keep us guessing. There are so many threads and articles out there advising us on the best way to tenderize an octopus, and none of them can seem to agree.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              I had some frustrations with a fresh one while night fishing, knee deep, in a Florida Keys canal last year.
                              Something was caressing my sandalled foot - when I pointed my flashlight down into the clear water, a blue octopus with a fist sized head was trying to eat my foot.
                              Scared the bejeezus outta me (I don't see may of these critters in my neck of the woods).

                              1. re: porker

                                Maybe he was checking whether YOU were tender.

                                1. re: LorenzoGA

                                  Funny! They are fun to encounter on dives - very curious, and really quite harmless and beautiful in motion.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    I know--I'm an avid scuba diver. Actually, I'm a bit ambivalent about eating such an apparently intelligent creature. But this is getting off topic. Apologies.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      "really quite harmless" yeah, but in my 2 second panic attack, I was thinking how their diet consists of clams, crabs, and other crustaceans....my Fred Flintstone foot is just flesh and meat covered bone, all soft...
                                      After stomping about, the beast scurried under rocks. I was then a bit angry and thought "wanna try to eat me? well, I'm now going to try to eat you", but he was way too jammed and holed up to get him out, then he disappeared.

                                      1. re: porker

                                        His mama didn't raise no stupid octopi. By the way, they love juvenile conch, and they stack the empty shells in a neat pile near where they hole up. Very tidy housekeepers.

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          Trust me: don't google "juvenile conch"

                                          1. re: Bada Bing

                                            Well you know, I just had to...
                                            but there was nothing unusual.

                                            Didja mean don't google "juvenile conch" with a typo on conch?

                                            1. re: porker

                                              I was joking. I never googled it. It just sounded so borderline lewd. And you know you get those "Did you mean...?" adjustments to searches.

                          2. I've made fresh and fresh frozen and will always order it out when I spy the octopi!

                            If you really want to guarantee perfection buy small, baby octopi. Under 1 lb'ers. They are so sweet & tender and they don't require anything more than a tender roll in the warm olive oil and garlic hay. The oo will braise those pieces to perfection.

                            If you can only find 1 lb or larger, still aim for the small size. When I do buy say 2 lb'ers, I tenderize in a combo of red wine and fresh lemon juice. And only enough to cover. It hangs out in the fridge 24 hours and then takes a tumble in the OOil bath tub with some fresh sliced garlic.

                            I make a lemon sauce as well for drizzle infused with some fresh chopped thyme.

                            eta: you'll note I neither boil or beat the octopus :) Ringo style!

                            1. Very helpful information here. I'll give it another try, thanks.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Veggo

                                Freeze first, thaw then slice to desired size and boil in Beer for 15 minutes, cool & eat-no need to make things complicated.

                                Of course people love to make things complicated-thus the cupboards and drawers full of kitchen appliances that are rarely used.

                                1. re: Sam Salmon

                                  Not everyone likes their octopus boiled. I'm a good example -- I prefer my octopus pan-seared or grilled.

                                  I would hope you agree that neither a sauté pan nor a grill are 'kitchen appliances that are rarely used'.

                                  Certainly not in my house.

                              2. With my bag of two dozen 1 lb octopus at the ready I made this preparation today for lunch and they came out tender and delicious! I also made a batch of roasted Yukon taters and lemon sauce for each.


                                Nothing could be simpler. If the octopus you buy is larger just cut down into smaller pieces.

                                15 Replies
                                1. re: HillJ

                                  That looks GREAT! And easy. I have to question though if those were really 1# each. Or 24# of octopus? The only time I've made octopus they were baby and I'm guessing a pound was a dozen of so. But mine also, IIRC and it's been a few years, were perhaps smaller than those pictured. I see these regularly at my Latino market. I need to make your very recipe. Thanks for sharing.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Oh your right! The two bags of pulpo had 24 octopus in total. Each bag included a few baby size and a few 1 lbers in each bag. $10.00 a bag.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      Now that means I've prepared the pulpo in warmed garlic infused olive oil (from fresh raw ocotpus) and in warm water bath to grill (from fresh frozen). And liked them both very much.

                                      I'm going to make a octopus salad from the 2nd bag leftovers along with some mixed pickles vegetables.

                                      1. re: HillJ

                                        Apologies for an incomplete post.

                                        I should have noted that I prefer Octopus cold thus the boilin' n chillin' but never grillin'.

                                        1. re: Sam Salmon

                                          Ah, I enjoy octopus both in cold salads and grilled. :) but I'm still experimenting with which prep I enjoy more.

                                            1. re: porker

                                              That would be the locals versioin of octopus salad! Sure. is good.

                                        2. re: HillJ

                                          Baby octopus marinated for two days from the link I gave above, grilled on the stove in a standard grill pan skewered on sticks and in 8 minutes a bowl of octopi heaven. I tossed the darlings in a cold rice salad with just a touch of honey-ginger vinegar. So freakin good!

                                          1. re: HillJ

                                            Nice. I'm nibbling on a tin of octopus in Galicia sauce but yours sounds much better! I picked up some really good tips on this thread, thanks HJ and others.

                                            1. re: Veggo

                                              octopus in Galicia sauce..I've never purchased this. Would you recommend I give it a try?

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                It's pretty good, I buy it from La Tienda where I also buy my angulas.

                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                  I visited the La Tienda website on a hunch. Last time I enjoyed eels was at a friends home. She makes a garlic bread sandwich with angulas that is very tasty.

                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    Nice. As you can see, they are getting quite pricey and are probably disappearing from the marketplace. La Tienda is often out of stock.
                                                    EDIT: I see the angulas have gone up 5 bucks since my last order, although the season for netting angulas is just beginning now.

                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                      Yes, I noticed the price..and the prices elsewhere.

                                                  2. re: Veggo

                                                    Octopus in Galicia sauce, calamari en salsa americaine, lulas recheadas, squid in its ink, mejillones en escabeche, almejas rosadas, all so very tasty.