Why It Works
- Using pre-cooked octopus that is already tender guarantees you won't get rubbery results.
- Drying the octopus speeds up browning and crisping on the grill.
- Working over direct high heat sears and crisps the octopus without risk of drying out the interior.
The key to grilled octopus that's well seared and crisp on the outside and tender within is to cook it in two stages, first until tender (you can do this by cooking it sous vide, boiled in a pot of water, or using a pressure cooker), and then over direct high heat on a gas or charcoal grill. This recipe lets the octopus shine, dressing it lightly in olive oil infused with chilies and fresh oregano.
- 1 (2 1/2-pound; 1kg) whole cooked octopus, chilled, drained of cooking liquid, cleaned of eyes and beak, and dried thoroughly (see note)
- 1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) crushed or minced Calabrian chilies in oil, or a coarse chili paste such as sambal oelek
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves
- Kosher salt
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Frisée or other leafy greens, for serving
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over half of coal grate. Alternatively, set half the burners of a gas grill to high heat. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate.
In a medium bowl, stir together olive oil, chilies, and oregano. Season lightly with salt and set aside. The sauce can be held at room temperature for up to 5 hours; refrigerate if storing longer and return to room temperature before using.
If you want to grill the octopus whole, leave it as-is. Alternatively, you can break the octopus down into parts, separating the head from the tentacles (you will already have cut out the eyes and beak where they meet); you can then leave the tentacles in sections, or separate them all into individual pieces.
When ready to grill, lightly drizzle olive oil all over the octopus and season lightly with salt. Set on grill directly over the coals and sear until browned and crisped, about 4 minutes (grilling time will vary depending on the heat of your coals and distance between them and the grill grate.) Carefully flip octopus and brown the other side, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to serving plates or platters if you want to serve the pieces as-is, or transfer them to a work surface if you want to cut them into smaller pieces, then arrange on serving plates.
Stir sauce to mix, then spoon over octopus. Serve with lemon wedges and some leafy greens lightly dressed in olive oil and seasoned with salt.
Grill, charcoal chimney starter
You can use any of our octopus cooking methods here: sous vide; boiled; pressure-cooker. See our guide to cooking octopus for more info. Note that we recommend cooling the octopus in its cooking liquid prior to cooking it further.
To dry the cooked octopus, pat it gently with paper towels (be careful not to tear the skin as much as possible). If any of the cooking liquid has gelled onto the octopus, remove it with towels as best you can. Alternatively, if you have the time in advance, you can set the cooked, cooled, and drained octopus on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and let it air-dry, uncovered, in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The octopus can be cooked and refrigerated up to three days in advance; cool, drain, and dry on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet before wrapping in plastic.