A few years ago I had a delicious 15-hour slow-cooked (then charred) octopus at a japanese restaurant in New York. The flesh was moist and tender without being gelatinous, and I could sense the layers in the tissue as I bit through it.

I've been trying to replicate the process using a sous-vide cooker, with very limited success as my results have invariably produced rubbery octopus.

As even food mega-nerd Harold McGee noted in a New York Times column, the recipes for tender octopus vary tremendously, and even his quest continues.

My instinct is that sous-vide is a good approach here. The sous vide recipes vary, but generally recommend ranges of 170-185F for 3 to 7 hours.

I've tried variants of these (with medium, fresh octopus, bought whole, cleaned and done one leg per bag), but with invariably rubbery results.


Is it possible to get reasonably consistent, moist/tender, medium sized octopus legs using sous-vide cooking?

  • If so, what preparation/setting is recommended?
  • If not, what are the factors which make this so damn hard?
  • 2
    My understanding of the spanish way to cook octopus is a two step process -- boil it for hours (or a short boil, then bake in oven for hours), dry it, then grill it. For larger ones, there might also be a 'tenderizing' step which involves beating it with a mallet or similar. It's possible that the stuff that you're trying to break down requires higher heat to break down than what you'd get from sous vide.
    – Joe
    Apr 29, 2015 at 15:25
  • 2
    Are you doing a charring step as well that could be contributing? Also FWIW, I worked at a restaurant that also cooked octopus sous-vide, and total time there was about 12 hours. Time may simply be the missing factor for the best results.
    – logophobe
    Apr 29, 2015 at 16:33
  • 7
    The way I saw someone preparing octopus in the med was they sent their kid out to beat it against the sidewalk for 5 minutes to tenderize it. Do you have children?
    – GdD
    Apr 30, 2015 at 8:08
  • 2
    @GdD A decent quantity of repressed anger would do fine too.
    – logophobe
    Apr 30, 2015 at 14:50
  • 4
    @KevinDavis, that depends on the size of the octopus. I think you should give her a small octopus in about a year and see how she does. Repeat the test at least every 6 months until she's 18 years old. Make sure you keep a video record to ensure scientific accuracy, or at least some entertainment value.
    – mrog
    Dec 9, 2015 at 0:45

4 Answers 4


Keller does octopus sous vide. I believe there is a recipe in his Under Pressure cookbook, but I don't have it at this location. I did a search on the web and came up with 77C (170.6 F) for 5 hours.

Personally, I have had the best results with the oven method in your McGee Link.

  • Thanks! I do want to attempt to do it sous vide per the question, so will try cooking it for a few more hours
    – tohster
    Apr 30, 2015 at 22:32
  • @tohster please post your results. By the way, I did confirm that Keller uses 77C for 5 hours.
    – moscafj
    May 1, 2015 at 11:05
  • will do....ok that Keller data point is fantastic, thanks for following up! I'm basically going to place the legs in separate bags and cook them at 5, 7 and 12 hours to see what happens. Will report back
    – tohster
    May 1, 2015 at 11:12
  • 1
    @tohster You didn't report back! What were the results?
    – WackGet
    Feb 27, 2017 at 2:23

I also tried different sous vide strategies. I get the best results with 4 hours at 82celcius. Remember to leave the octopus in the warm water to cool down slowly. The octopus seems to take in extracted moist in this process. If really like to create a Thai flavoured marinade that in this cooling process creates an intense flavour.


It'll sound a bit dramatic but it works because of some basic biology. Cut off the body of the occy so then you have a "fan" of legs. Cut through between the legs making pairs of legs still conjoined. Cut vegie peeler strips from a cut, still green, papaya ( or paw paw) one thin strip for each pair of legs. Place the cut pairs of legs in the sous vide bag and intersperse the pairs with the strips of papaya (or pawpaw). Seal the bag and sous vide at 72 degrees C for 3 hours. Finally remove the pairs of legs and wash them to remove traces of the fruit. Now grill, slice, saute, whatever you might wish and there you are. Biology? The fruit has a natural enzyme - papain which partially breaks down some of the protein tissues of the occy. Method also works for large squid which can also be quite tough. Don't overdo the time/temp though as the papain can, over time turn the whole occy to mush. Also, take care with storage as there is a bacterium on the surface of such animals - vibrio which can cause both rotting and stomach upsets in quantity. If you wish to keep the occy longer term either freeze in fresh bags without the fruit or before sous vide drop the occy legs into rolling boil water for a minute with stirring to ensure full surface exposure before sous vide.


I found this recipe.

75ºC (167ºF), 8 hours.

Marinating is optional.

I haven't tried it myself.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.