There is an ancient Croatian cooking method, peka, that buries food in hot coals inside of sturdy earthenware vessels. It works beautifully for octopus, and if you're ever in that country, you really need to find a restaurant that will prepare octopus this way for you. In the meantime, make this traditional grilled Mediterranean-style octopus at home.
Octopus is not difficult to make
Octopus is quite lovely done in numerous ways. This is the most straightforward and how my mother usually made it.
I frequently hear that octopus is some complicated culinary endeavour to pull off successfully at home, which is quite puzzling, but that may just be due to octopus being a less commonly eaten dish in North America. Especially compared to something like calamari which is in practically every restaurant and pub.
First you blanch the octopus, Then You simply steam or braise it for some hours
Then you grill it for a few minutes to get that beautiful char. If you don't have a grill, a blow torch works.
Starting off a dark mottled purplish-grey, the octopus turns a beautiful pink and white after cooking
Octopus thrives on simple preparation which allows the natural sweetness of the flesh to shine. Taste-wise, the octopus can be similar to a scallop, but the meat is more solid. It's a creature that lives in all the oceans and seas, and many species live very, very deep reaching incomprehensible size.
The only challenge with octopus is getting the flesh properly tender
This is due to the immense amount of tough collagen that makes up this incredible animal.
That problem is easily remedied by the braising/steaming.
I prefer braising myself: You prepare a bed of aromatics and herbs; things like bay leaf, onion, garlic, rosemary, dill, etc. whatever you hand on hand really. Or even nothing at all. The octopus is laid on top this bed of aromatics and slowly allowed to braise in its own juices.
You can even braise the octopus ahead of time, and store it in the fridge for a day or two before bringing back to room temperature and grilling.
Frozen octopus needs tenderizing
Another myth is that a frozen octopus is already tender and simply needs a quick steam before grilling. I tried this once and ended up with tough and stringy meat -- something that octopus should never be.
You will likely be purchasing a frozen or pre-frozen octopus, and yes, it is true that the freezing process has done some of the work of tenderization but it is not enough.
Pomegranate molasses is a nice optional touch
You can also buy it at most Middle Eastern grocers.
Drizzled on top of the grilled octopus, the tangy sweet-sour taste of the pomegranate molasses contrasts beautifully.
The taste of octopus is mild and sweet, never fishy. The quick cursory grilling imparting that satisfying crispiness and char to the edges. This is a simple and mostly hands-off recipe that looks very impressive when served.
Let me know what you think in the comments and feel free to ask any questions.
What is your favourite way to prepare or order octopus?Print
Mediterranean Grilled Octopus
This is a simple, traditional recipe for grilled octopus that my mother makes. You can braise the octopus ahead and store it in the fridge for 1 or 2 days before grilling. Eat with a crisp, vinegary salad and squeeze of lemon juice. Or make a garlicky tomato broth with some chorizo. Can be an appetizer for 4 or dinner for 2.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Category: Dinner/Appetizer
- Method: Braise & Grill
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
1 whole octopus, 2-5 lbs
1 Lemon cut into wedges
(Optional) Aromatics: Onions, Celery, Carrots, Bay Leaves, Dill
- If frozen, allow to defrost completely in the fridge
- Preheat the oven to 300°F
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Submerge the octopus for 1 minute. Remove and rinse under cold running water.
- Prepare the bed of aromatics in a dish large enough to hold the octopus. Roughly chop everything you will be using and place the octopus on top.
- If your octopus is around 2 lbs, allow it to braise for about 2-hours. If it is closer to 4 lbs, you may need 3 or more hours.
- Pierce the flesh with a knife or fork to determine tenderness. It should go through easily.
- To finish, preheat your grill to High (or get out your blow-torch) and grill the octopus until the edges are slightly charred and the ends of the tentacles blackened.
- Rub down the meat with high-quality olive oil, preferably one of the more bitter Mediterranean styles and serve with a dish of flaky sea salt on the side and lemon wedges.
- Pomegranate Molasses is optional, but a tiny bit drizzled onto the octopus meat is surprisingly delicious. You can purchase Pomegranate Molasses at Middle Eastern stores or follow my recipe by clicking here.
Keywords: Octopus, grilling