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Photograph by Travis Rathbone; food styling by Chris Lanier; prop styling by Natasha Louise King

Rubbery if overcooked and jellylike if under-, octopus is notoriously tricky to get right. One restaurant that truly nails it is Merrill & Co., where the braised-then-plancha-torched tentacles are served with crunchy house-made kimchi and smoky Spanish paprika. We’re not alone in our fandom—executive chef Jason Cheek says he goes through 24 of the creatures each week. Want to take on the finicky cephalopods at home? Follow Cheek’s three tips for success.

When Buying

Cheek suggests scoring an octopus at Wulf’s Fish Market, in Brookline, or Ming’s Supermarket, in the South End (call ahead to see if they’re in stock).

When Cleaning

To rid the cephalopod of impurities, scrub with salt before preparing, then soak the octopus in water for a few hours to release the brininess before braising.

When Cooking

Check the tenderness of a braised octopus with a cake tester. If the tester comes out of a tentacle cleanly without lifting it, you’ve hit the sweet spot.


Hungry for more?

Check out our complete “Seafood Lover’s Guide.”