The stumbling block is octopus are so tough it requires some understanding and technique to tenderize it. So if you ask different people what are the best ways to tenderize it, you have different opinions. A Greek fishermen will tell you to beat it against the rocks. A Spanish chef will dip it into boiling water three times, then only cook it in a copper pot. The Italian chef cook will say boil it with two corks and the Japanese scrub it with salt before boiling it. In fact the boiling requires a slow methodical approach as the octopus is dipped into the water.
If you decide to cook octopus and you wish to have it tender, the first thing is do not smash it on the rocks. These kinds of techniques are wives tales and should be avoided. Smashing is a primitive way to tenderize octopus and the irony is once you grill it over a fire, it becomes dried and more chewy than before.
The reason the smashing is believed to be good is that it breaks the top layer of the octopus’s skin and leaves you with a penetrable body. I guess that before an octopus can get cooked and become softer it requires some softening of the outer skin. If you think about it, the octopus is a tough muscular sea animal made of muscular arms. The arms are protected by a layer of skin that coats the octopus and protects it from predators. Using a network of pigment cells and specialized muscles in its skin, the common octopus can almost instantaneously match the colors, patterns, and even textures of its surroundings.
Freshly amputated octopus arms of octopus remain highly active for more than an hour after removal from their owner. Trials by researchers saw that suckers on such arms never grasped themselves yet are sticking to almost everything except themselves.
I believe, in order to cook and tenderize octopus, the muscle fibres and proteins underneath the skin means can only be penetrated by creating micro pathways into the muscular flesh of the arms. The secret lies in breaking down and channeling beneath the tough elastic outer skin.
I am confident that you can achieve good results by using a micro abrasive such as salt that will help sandpaper your way through the skin and open it up. At the same time the salt helps in tenderizing the flesh by releasing cells that are the very nature of what makes an octopus tough and slippery. While there is a high salt concentration in the brine outside the cell, the concentration of other solutes inside the cell is higher and this leads water to enter the cell via osmosis. The higher salt concentration inside the cell causes proteins to denature, increasing the cells water retention capability and consequently by washing you soften the ocotpus.
The cooking often requires boiling the ocotpus in water and do not over cook it. The gelatines should be cooked and semi-transparent with the core white. In the photo below you can see the cooking and layers.
However if you want to be sure you have a tender octopus the best approach is sous vides at 77°C degrees for 5 hours and then its up to you. You can either serve it as is, or grill it crispy.
Categories: Life Cycles