This post is dedicated to my friend Elaine, for her love for octopus and her fear of cooking it.
It is also dedicated to all the past and future customers of Whole Foods Market who patiently stand in line behind me at the seafood department,
while I chose the biggest and meatiest octopus, and who ask me in the most hesitant voice “What are you planning on doing with this?”
My Greek origin makes me an expert on the subject: Grilled octopus is a scrumptious appetizer and it is best when served at the fish taverna, directly from the burning hot charcoal grill with the addition of just a little olive oil, lemon juice and dried oregano. At home, however, preparing a grilled octopus can be a whole other story…. I’ve read many (and tried a couple) different recipes, including marinating the octopus, boiling it, cooking it with corks, and many others.
For those of you who love octopus, you should know that there is just one – and very easy – way to grill a perfect octopus in your home kitchen and that is … to bake it! Indeed, this one-step recipe will result to an octopus that will be both charred on the outside and meaty on the inside, just as if you ordered it in a Greek restaurant on the shore of an Aegean island.
Here are a few tips on how to handle an octopus: Always chose the biggest one – not only will it be tastier but you should be aware that you will be left with half of what you see, as the octopus will shrink considerably during the cooking process. Octopus is most often found previously frozen or frozen, in which case you will need to thaw it. It is always sold cleaned but you will still need to remove the beak and the eyes with a pointy knife and clean the head sack. Also, rinse the tentacles under running cold water. If you can’t get over these steps and dread holding a raw octopus in your hands, ask your fishmonger to do it for you.
The beak is at the center of the octopus.
Remove it with a pointy knife.
Discard the eyes and clean the head sac.
How To (for a 3 lbs octopus – about 1.3 kg):
- Preheat oven to 375º F (190º C).
- Clean the octopus as per above instructions.
- Arrange the octopus in a baking dish (glass or stoneware) and add about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) water.
- Bake for about 1h 15′ or until the thick part of the tentacle is done.
- Carefully discard the water from the baking dish (if any) and bake for another 15′.
- Before serving, slice the tentacles and the head and drizzle lemon juice or vinegar, olive oil & dried oregano.