Tenderizing Octopus with Wine Corks

February 11, 2008

Now I know what you're thinking. "When would I ever want to eat octopus, let alone tenderize it?" Octopus is a highly under-rated and under-appreciated seafood here in the States. Its diminutive cousin, calamari, is popular, so why not octopus? If properly prepared octopus is delicious, if not, then it's like you're chewing on an eraser.

We've always slowly simmered octopus for a long period until it becomes soft and tender, but I just found this unique method of tenderizing using wine corks. Apparently cork contains an enzyme that helps tenderize the octopus and reduce the cooking time. You can use the corks from red or white wine - no need to clean them. Here's how (this is based on a 2 1/2 lb octopus and you want one cork per quart of liquid):

  • Heat your oven to 350 degrees F
  • In a large saucepan bring 4 quarts of water to a simmer
  • Brace yourself now, you need to clean your little sea critter. To do this grab a couple handfuls of coarse kosher salt and rub into the octopus as if you were applying moisturizer. (I find it helps to sing the theme song to the Little Mermaid to get you through this process. I never said they were cute, just delicious). Once it gets frothy rinse in cold water. Pound with a meat tenderizer (a few good swats in each place) and rinse again.
  • Add 4 wine corks to your simmering water and lower your octopus into the pot. Once the tentacles begin to curl remove from the stove and place in your heated oven for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or until tender.

For a Spanish tapas-style dish called Pulpo a la Gallega (as in photo) we cut the octopus into about 1" pieces, place on top of 1/4" slices of boiled potato, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with smoked paprika and course sea salt.

Give octopus a chance!

For more recipes check out:

The Gourmet Headhunter's Baby Octopus in Red Sauce
Cooking Diva's Pulpo Asado (Grilled Baby Octopus)
Over a Tuscan Stove's Octopus Salad

I'd love to know what you think. Click the Comments link below and share your thoughts.



Greg Bulmash's picture

"Frothy" like when you pour salt on a slug? And what do you do about the beak?

swetherell's picture

Maybe not quite as bubbly as slugs get when in contact with salt (eew!). Regarding the beak, you want to cut that away.

cookingdiva's picture

Octopus is one of my favorite dishes ever, well prepared of course! Thank you for the tenderizing idea. Happy holidays from Panama :)

Joel Owen's picture

Octopus tenderizing using corks - This is a myth! it is scientifically impossible. You just need to cook it for an hour in a flavoured, salty broth for a 1.3-1.5kg ocotpus, head and all (make sure the head guts are removed).

That's it. You can then char it up on a bbq for a couple of minutes for a better flavour.