How to Prepare the Perfect Octopus: Put a Cork in it?

Filed under Seafood Tips & Facts on July 31, 2014

Considered a staple in Mediterranean and Asian kitchens, Octopus remains an unfamiliar seafood to many Americans. Like its close cousin Squid, Octopus is made up of muscles and connective tissues, which lends itself to becoming tough if not prepared correctly. In the culinary world, there is an old wives' (or rather cooks') tale that says boiling octopus with a cork in the pot makes the meat more tender. The myth goes that there are natural enzymes in cork that aid the tenderizing process.

Despite all the mystery behind this particularly odd creature, there is no reason why you should be intimidated by octopus. In fact, it is one of the most simple seafood to prepare. With or without a cork.

To begin, you must thoroughly wash the Octopus and pat dry with a paper towel. In the case of octopus, there is an advantage with using frozen over fresh meat. The freezing process helps tenderize the meat, making them a lot easier to work with.

The next step is to braise the Octopus in a stockpot for 30-60 minutes, depending on size. Simply simmer the meat in water and add a cup of white wine, with a few pinches of salt and pepper. You can also add vegetables, herbs and additional spices for taste. While proponents of the cork method believe adding a cork to the pot is key to tenderization, your safest best is to frequently test the Octopus meat. Use a knife to pierce a tentacle every 15 minutes or so. You'll know the octopus is tender when the knife easily goes in.

When your time is up, remove the Octopus from the pot and cut the tentacles off from the body. You can finish off by grilling or pan-frying the octopus meat, or just enjoying as is.