The octopus is one of the most fascinating creatures to exist on the planet and below its waves. These eight armed, triple heart invertebrates are known for their extreme dexterity and flexibility, intelligence allowing them to recognize human faces and predict world cup scores and have even been observed using tools!
Many people wonder if octopus can be eaten. Good news – they can be and are delicious. Raw octopus can make people incredibly unwell, but when prepared correctly (as it has been in various culinary traditions across the world for centuries) this cephalopod is considered the height of luxury cuisine.
As octopus is such a premium and highly sought-after element of so many world cuisines, there is no shortage of great recipes and guides to properly cook your octopuses (and that is the right plural, octopi is incorrect!) to avoid any stomach upsets.
The main concern of a lot of people when talking about eating octopuses is not biological – they are a relatively easy food to cook to non-toxicity. A common concern, however, is one of ethics. Many people (animal rights activists included) contend that this cephalopod is so intelligent that eating them is equivalent to eating a household pet in terms of intellect and pain.
Mass farming of the octopus also has a huge environmental impact – the animal is a very hungry carnivore so their mass captivity is also environmentally expensive as well as having a potentially negative moral dimension. So, some scientists recommend that if you do want to eat octopus, make sure it is ethically acquired fresh, and not factory farmed.
In this article we will tell you how to cook and prepare an octopus so you can eat it, check a few popular recipes for octopus and fully answer the question: Can you eat an Octopus?
What does Octopus taste like?
The taste of an octopus often depends on the method of preparation. As the flavor of this seafood is not incredibly distinct, it has the capacity to take on a huge amount of flavor from marinades, sauces, or spice rubs. Whatever way an octopus is cooked can also impact its taste, the texture of an octopus is massively different depending on whether it is poached, braised or grilled.
While it might look very slimy, sloppy, or chewy at a glance, properly prepared and cooked octopus tastes nothing like that. Its texture should be light and moist, and most similar to that of a lobster. If your octopus comes out sloppy or slimy after cooking, it is highly likely that the seafood is spoiled and you should not eat it.
If cooked properly it will not be chewy, either, although that is a hallmark sign of overcooked octopus (as with quite a lot of seafood of its kind).
As a general rule, properly cooked octopus has a flavor very similar to calamari or squid. Some say it tastes like chicken or pork, but that is said about too many foods to be considered accurate.
Properly cooked octopus will be more tender than calamari, and that tenderness will be heavily determined by how it was marinaded and cooked.
How does raw Octopus taste?
It is generally advisable to not eat octopus raw due to several hazards, but raw octopus is a component of quite a few different dishes worldwide. It is often served in ceviche or sashimi forms in the Mediterranean and the east, but even then it is sometimes par-boiled to tenderize the meat.
This is because raw octopus is often very tough and chewy, accompanied with a slimy texture from the raw skin which is rather unappetizing.
San-najki, however, is a popular Korean dish where the octopus is served so raw that its tentacles are still moving. When served like this, the octopus tastes more like the ocean, with a texture like Jell-O. The suckers require extra care when chewing, as they can be a choking hazard (killing up to six people every year)!
How does grilled octopus taste?
Grilled octopus is given a lovely, smokey flavor that you would not normally get otherwise thanks to the hard sear you can achieve with this cooking method. The smokiness compliments the light umami, fishy flavor the octopus has brilliantly.
The grilling process also gives a nice variance in texture, as the side being seared takes on a nice char.
Grilled octopus should be pre-boiled beforehand in order to achieve a nice light internal texture. If this step is not taken, the high heat of the grill will make the octopus meat tough and chewy.
What are some delicious Octopus Recipes?
In this section, we will look at two stunning, unusual, and absolutely delectable ways octopus can be prepared.
To prepare Greek style octopus, you should do the following:
- Add the octopus, along with some red wine vinegar and bay leaves, into a medium sized both filled with water, and boil the octopus for fifty minutes (or approaching tender)
- Drain the octopus, then sear in a lightly oiled hot pan.
- Add onion, garlic, fresh tomatoes, and some more olive oil.
- Cook these through, then deglaze first with vinegar, and then the water you boiled the octopus in.
- Braise in this sauce for up to five minutes, or until the octopus is tender.
Californian-style Baja Octopus Salad
- Cure some cucumber by adding salt to sliced cucumber, and setting aside for a while.
- Pre cook (boil, roast, or grill) your octopus until tender, and slice into 1cm pieces.
- Combine the octopus, some cooked prawns, red onion, sliced jalapeño peppers, cured cucumber.
- Add some tabasco, chipotle chilies (in adobo sauce), lime, and a dash of orange juice to the salad, and mix it thoroughly.
- Make a salad dressing with some sriracha sauce, fish sauce and lime juice.
- Add some sliced avocado and coriander (optional, add this to your personal taste) to the salad.
- Taste for seasoning at the end and adjust with lime juice, salt, pepper, and tabasco to taste.