Mysterious Creature from the Deep, Grilled

I love eating octopus: the chewy texture when it’s perfectly cooked, the way it resists and then submits to my teeth in every bite. But I have this fear of cooking octopus, a fear I’ll end up with a mass of unchewable rubber, and that my poor little sea friend will go to waste.

Information about preparing and cooking octopus is intimidating. Some people beat the hell out of it with a rock.

Mario Batali braises it with a wine cork. Others add cream of tartar. Maybe these techniques work, maybe they don’t. Feel free to share your own experiences.

I made this recipe with two octopuses (the first one I grilled to oblivion, pretty much like I feared). The second time I kept it really simple and I think it turned out great!

No-Fear Grilled Octopus
Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 octopus (2 1/2 to 3 pounds), cleaned (it should come that way—check with your fishmonger)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon

Step 1: Put your octopus in a large pot, cover with water by a few inches, bring to a boil over medium heat, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Step 2: Drain, transferring the octopus to a plate. Toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and some black pepper.

Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Step 3: Heat a gas or charcoal grill to high (450°F to 550°F), about 10 minutes. Place the octopus on the grill and cook it with the lid open until it chars on the bottom, about 5 minutes.

Step 4: Flip the octopus over and cook until it chars on the second side, about 5 minutes more. Done!

Step 5: Transfer the octopus to a cutting board. Chop into bite-size pieces and put them in a large bowl. Toss with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, some more pepper, and the juice from half of the lemon. Cut the other half of the lemon into thin slices and serve on the side.

Photos, styling, and animated GIF by Chris Rochelle