Octopus tentacles contain a network of fibrous connective tissue that provides the support the octopus needs to function but which poses a unique problem when cooking. Unlike other types of connective tissue, it does not respond well to acidic marinades, and only dissolves comprehensively when cooked between 190 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Saltwater brines also have a tenderizing effect on octopi tentacles, but for different reasons than the low-temperature cooking; brines uncoil tightly coiled muscle fibers, similar to the effects brines have on pork and poultry. The combination of brining and poaching or slow-cooking produces tentacles free of the chewy texture improperly cooked octopi are known for. Add this to my Recipe Box.
Poaching MethodMix together 3/4 cup of iodized salt and 1 gallon of cold water until the salt is dissolved. Place the tentacles and this brine in a food storage container and cover.
Brine the octopus tentacles for 12 hours in the refrigerator. Rinse the tentacles and place them in a sauce pot.
Attach a candy thermometer to the sauce pot. Cover the octopus in cold water and place it over medium heat until it reaches an ideal temperature range between 190 degrees Fahrenheit and 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Adjust the heat as needed to maintain the ideal range. Cook the octopus for 4 to 5 hours.
Slow-Cooked MethodBring 1 gallon of water to a boil. Fill a food storage container with 50 percent water and 50 percent ice. Place the tentacles in the boiling water and allow it to return to a boil.
Boil the tentacles for 30 seconds after they return to a boil, then remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in the ice bath for 1 minute. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the tentacles in an oven-safe covered dish.
Bake the tentacles for 4 to 5 hours or until tender and set aside. Transfer the liquid the tentacles released during cooking to a sauce pot and bring it to a boil. Boil until reduced by half, season to taste and serve with the tentacles.