This mollusk makes for an excellent main course to woo and impress guests. Like any protein, it is versatile and can be cooked in many ways and still end up delicious. It is likely you assume that cooking octopus is challenging and requires a lot of skill and expertise but that is simply not true. This article will show you a simple, quick and easy way to cook octopus that requires no experience whatsoever, by boiling it. You will be surprised at how straightforward it is!
Why you should boil your octopus
Boiling an octopus is quicker than most other cooking methods involving octopus, as well as a very useful step in a longer cooking process: some people pre-cook it by boiling or braising before grilling or roasting while others use it right after boiling for a sushi or salad.
Since octopi have no bones, it compensates for it by supporting itself with tough collagen. Boiling the octopus allows these collagen fibres to break down and make the octopus meat softer and tender. It also removes the slithery texture of the octopus, making it easier to cut to eat right away or cook further. Since octopi hold a lot of its weight in water, adding a stock or herbs while boiling allows the octopus to absorb the flavours as the water diffuses out.
The process is also less energy and time consuming-every pound of octopus requires about 20 minutes of boiling.
The boiling process makes the cutting and cleaning process much easier afterwards, a feat that can be very messy and tricky if done raw.
How to boil the perfect octopus
If you have brought your octopus frozen, it is most probably already clean. All you have to do is leave it to thaw in your fridge for one day, until it is fully defrosted, until the next step.
If the octopus is brought fresh, put it in a sieve and rub it with a generous amount of salt until it is no longer slimy. Then, rinse it and allow it to drain for a few minutes until the next step. Don’t worry about cutting the octopus or cleaning out its insides (if it hasn’t been done by the fishmonger already).
Take a pot that is large enough for the octopus to fit and fill it up to more than half its capacity. If you like, add some stock and herbs but be careful-octopi will absorb the flavor quickly. There is no need to add salt in the pot.
When the water is boiling at its peak temperature, grab the octopus so that its tentacles are hanging and dip the tentacles only into the water for a minute or two, before taking it out again. Repeat this several times until the tentacles curl up nicely, and then gently place the entire octopus in the water.
For a large 5-pound octopus, the boiling may take an hour. For a smaller one-pound octopus, it will only take 20 minutes or less. Be attentive and check every 15 minutes. To check, use a fork until it goes all the way through easily, or a knife until it cuts all the way through.
Be careful not to overcook it, or it will become tough and chewy in texture.
After boiling the octopus
After it is done cooking, remove it from heat and rinse under cold water. It is better to refrigerate the octopus, even if your intent to serve it warm, as it allows the skin to stay on rather than slipping off.
Now your octopus is ready to prepare! Cut off the tentacles where they meet with the head. Removing the beak, ink sac and eyes should be easy by carving with the knife; it is recommended to watch a video if you are doing this for the first time.
Now add it in your salad or sushi, or roast it in a Dutch oven. Enjoy your delicious seafood delicacy!