Sous vide octopus is so tender, and cooking it requires no guesswork
Lots of people avoid cooking octopus because they think it’s difficult. It’s true that if you cook it incorrectly it can come out a tough, but I want to share a fool-proof way to to get a super tender end result, without all the guesswork or disappointment.
With sous vide, there’s no guessing. Simply set it and forget it. In my case, I set the temperature to 171 ºF and cooked it for 5 hours. If you use this formula, it’ll always come out the same.
Five hours sounds like a long time, but there’s really no work to do during the 5 hours. Take a nap, hang out with your kids or watch two full length movies. Popcorn anyone?
Why not just boil the octopus?
Octopus is usually boiled in water before heading to the grill. For an octopus this size (ours was about 4 lbs), you’d be looking at roughly 45 to 60 minutes in boiling water to get it tender and ready for the grill.
You can absolutely just boil the octopus before grilling, and assuming you boiled it just right, it will taste really good. There is a little guess-work with this method, though.
The difference with the sous vide version of the recipe is that the octopus gets to sit in a tasty marinade for 5 hours, and that gives it more flavour than you’d get with just boiling. Plus the sous vide method ensures a precise and even temperature the whole time.
Can I cook sous vide with wine?
Yes, but… not before an important step first.
You see, I’d been thinking about this recipe for quite some time. I was originally planning to cook it in wine and garlic–a simple and traditional marinade. What could go wrong?
While I was at Off The Hook, my local fish market, I asked them for their opinion on grilling marinated octopus. I was really just asking if they recommended I go really hot with the grill. They told me to be cautious with the heat because the wine could end up burning on the skin. That got me re-thinking my wine and garlic marinade plan.
Cooking sous vide is easy, but it is a different method of cooking. I realized at that point that I needed to do a bit more research around the science of wine and the sous vide method.
Through my research I learned that marinades with wine or high acidity liquids don’t reduce during cooking in sous vide. This can introduce bad flavours into the food. Huh! Well that’s not what I was going for. But, I still wanted to use wine, so I ended up reducing the wine and garlic in a pot before adding it, cooled, into the sous vide bag. Bingo!
By cooking down the wine, the alcohol burned off and it became a more subtle marinade for the octopus. I wasn’t completely sure this would work. Fortunately, it was just the ticket and I was incredibly happy with the end result!
Why grill the octopus if it comes out of the sous vide bag fully cooked?
I grilled the octopus at 500 ºF for just a few minutes. It’s not a required step, but grilling adds a nice smokey flavour and those beautiful char marks. I love the crispy edges!
What sides should I serve with this octopus?
Almost any favourite side will go with this dish. A nice tossed salad, green beans, quinoa, boiled potatoes, etc. I went with a traditional Portuguese side.
I boiled some potatoes until just tender, pressed them with the bottom of a glass and set them under the broiler for a few minutes. These are known as smashed potatoes. We call them batatas a murro, in Portuguese.
How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?
Tentacles! (that’s the best one I could get from our little guy) 😃
If that didn’t make you laugh, at least I hope the simplicity of this recipe will have you laughing all the way to dinner. Enjoy, and make today yummy! 😃
- 1 4 lbs or 1.9kg whole octopus or two smaller octopus, cleaned (washed and beak removed)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt adjust to your own personal taste
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 5 cloves garlic chopped into thin slices
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice to top the grilled octopus once it comes off the grill and as it’s served
In a sauce pot, add the wine, salt, black pepper, garlic, and cook on medium heat to reduce to half. Set aside and let cool.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a rolling boil on the stove.
Fill another large pot (for sous vide) with water and place it on a heat protected surface.
Place the Joule sous vide unit (or other sous vide unit) in the water. Joule has a magnetic base, so it can stick to the bottom of a metal pot. Alternately, you can clip the unit to the side of the pot.
Set your temperature and timer and preheat the water. Our settings were 171 ºF” and 5 hours.
Dip the tentacles in the boiling water (first pot) for about 30 seconds to curl them and then dip them in cold water to stop the cooking.
Pat down the octopus and place the octopus in one or two large heavy duty ziplock (or other sealable) bags.
Add the wine mixture and olive oil to the bag(s).
Remove all the air using the water displacement technique (see notes below) or vacuum seal if you have a vacuum sealer.
Place the air-tight bag in the pot with the preheated water. Make sure the bag is fully submerged. Weigh it down if needed.
Cook for 5 hours.
Remove the octopus from the bag and pat down with paper towel (discard the juices).
Preheat your grill to about 500 ºF
Cut the octopus into pieces with two or three full tentacles to make it easier to manage on the grill.
Grill on high for about 4 to 6 minutes to get those beautiful char marks.
Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the octopus.
Enjoy with your favourite sides. We served our octopus with smashed roasted potatoes, black olives, roasted red pepper, and chopped fresh parsley.
- Dipping the tentacles in boiling water before cooking sous vide is optional. It’ll still taste great if you skip this step, but the curled tentacles look beautiful on the plate.
- Use the displacement technique to remove the air from the sealable bags before cooking sous vide. Press the air out of the bag and seal all but one corner of the bag. Place the bag in the water. Being careful not to let any water into the bag’s zip opening, press the bag down and finish sealing the bag. The water pressure helps remove the remaining air before sealing.
- You can of course skip the sous vide part of this recipe and just boil the octopus before grilling. We find that by cooking sous vide with the wine and garlic marinade, more flavour is infused into the octopus.