Cooking Octopus Is Easier Than You Think

Octopus is an intimidating ingredient, slippery for even seasoned cooks. But it's really not as complicated to tackle as you might imagine. Sure, it takes time, but the easy-to-follow steps laid out by veteran seafood chef Alvin Binuya makes for a dish you'd expect to order at an upscale restaurant. This preparation is wildly popular at Ponti Seafood Grill, the Seattle restaurant where Binuya has been in the kitchen, off-and-on, since the 1990s.

Poaching is the key to turning something that could be rubbery into a meltingly tender bites. "You want to poach it for an hour and a half," Binuya explained, emphasizing that the liquid should be slowly simmering, not boiling.

But even before cooking, sourcing seafood that's sustainable is essential, the seasoned chef said. "The octopus that you find in the Northwest is by catch, netted with other fish, so supply is hit and miss," he said. An exhaustive search led him to the coast off Baja in Mexico, where a thriving fishing industry goes out daily to fish for octopus, catching 2- to 5-pounders. Those are sold in supermarkets across the country in the frozen seafood section. Advances in preserving by freezing seafood has dramatically expanded selection and extended previously short seasons. It's become trendy to cook seafood from frozen.

Octopus appetizer by chef Alvin B
Photo by Leslie Kelly.

After the octopus is cooked, it's prepped for a quick sear on the grill or under the broiler. "Remove the legs and discard the body. Depending on how large the legs are, you can leave them whole or cut them into pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You want the grill to be hot, and you'll need to use tongs to move the octopus around so it doesn't burn. When the ends start to get crisp, that's when you should pull it off."

Grilled octopus makes a food porn worthy subject on all sorts of Mediterranean dishes while chef Binuya receives raves for a mushroom and bean preparation. The recipe follows.

Chef Alvin Binuya's Char-Grilled Octopus

Poaching liquid:

  • 1 cup red wine (we use a zinfandel, but any good table wine will work fine)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups mirepoix (a mix of chopped onions, celery, carrots)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoon dry thyme
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes

Bring liquid to a simmer and add a 2- to 3- pound octopus, weigh down with a plate to keep it submerged. Cover and slowly simmer for 90 minutes. Remove from liquid and chill thoroughly before cutting into individual legs, discarding liquid, head, and beak. Just before serving, sear on a hot grill or under a broiler for 3 to 4 minutes, turning often. Serve on top of the wild mushroom and bean ragout.

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ julienne onion
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2# wild mushrooms
  • Splash of dry white wine, 2-3 tablespoons
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1-15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley

Saute the onions in olive oil over medium high heat until they begin to caramelize. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender. Add the wine and simmer for 1 minute, then add the cream and the beans and cook for another minute or two. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 2.

Simple Grilled Octopus

Here's another great recipe for tender grilled octupus. "Tenderized octopus, char-grilled and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and a sprinkling of fresh parsley," says Kim's Cooking Now. "Simple, yet deliciously satisfying!"

Grilled Octopus
Photo by Kim's Cooking Now.

Check out our collection of Octopus and Squid Recipes.

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