A little time and effort go a long way when it comes to making delicious octopus, whether it’s braised or grilled. The soft-bodied cephalopod makes a fantastic addition to a Mediterranean salad or pasta, as well as a flavorful appetizer when grilled with lemon. But before you can get started, you’ll need to know how to prepare the animal.
Clean and Trim Octopus
Before you can start cooking your octopus, it’s important to prep it correctly so that it’s as tender as possible. This includes removing any hard, unappetizing parts of the body and head and sloughing off any excess skin.
First, rinse the octopus under running water to remove any dirt or debris that may have collected in the body cavity during transport. Next, use a paring knife to remove the beak and ink sac from the head. If you’re buying your octopus from the fishmonger, ask them to wash and remove these for you.
Roast or Pan Fry the Octopus
When cooking octopus, it’s best to let the animal cool down before removing it from the pot. This will help it cook more evenly and prevent it from becoming too mushy or tough. If you don’t have enough time to allow it to cool, you can cook it quickly after removing it from the pot, but make sure it’s cooked thoroughly before serving.
For roasted octopus, place the meat on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook in a 250 degree oven for about 2 hours, checking on it periodically by piercing it with a fork until it reaches your desired level of tenderness. Once it’s cooked, you can chop it up for a quick side dish or throw it on the grill to get that golden-brown sear you love.
To prepare octopus for pan frying, heat up a frying pan with some olive oil and crushed garlic. Once the pan is hot, add the tentacles and cook them for a few minutes on each side until they’re nicely colored and charred.
After the octopus is ready, remove the tentacles and pat them dry with paper towels before transferring them to a plate. This will ensure that they’re not too greasy and won’t splatter when you try to serve them.
Alternatively, you can cut off the tentacles and use them to make a simple stew that is perfect with crusty bread. To do this, slather the octopus body with olive oil and season it with salt, pepper, and garlic. Then, mix in some chopped tomatoes and onions, deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar, and pour in a bit of the octopus broth.
For this recipe, you’ll need a large octopus. Generally, you’ll want to choose one that weighs around 1 pound to ensure that it will cook through and be tender without being too mushy.
You can also purchase pre-frozen octopus to save yourself some time. However, you’ll still need to do the cleaning and slicing steps described above.