Bench-top NMRs are the key to the perfectly cooked octopus


Octopus - "pulpo" in Galician - is a favourite dish in Galicia, the home of Mestrelab. If you were fortunate to come to SMASH 2013, you would surely have tasted this local delicacy. The secret to cooking pulpo is to get it soft and flavoursome - not chewy. This can be done done, and there are hundreds of family recipes that prescribe how to get it "just right" - all closely guarded, of course: it's not trivial.


The new generation of bench-top NMR spectrometers (1) promise to herald a new era of precise food analysis. Researchers have shown how these instruments can be used to show horse meat adulteration of beef (2), olive oil adulteration (3), and what's really in those herbal supplements "for men only" (4). But in Northern Spain, nothing touches a nerve like cooking perfectly the humble octopus!

We were therefore overjoyed to receive a call from one of our small-magnet collaborators with an eye to using our new mixtures analysis product, SMA, to assist with a new project.

The data still need validation, but it appears that there is substantial promise for this hardware-software combination to take the guess-work out of cooking pulpo!

With substantial IP at stake it is not possible to reveal much detail, but that will follow. Briefly, the NMR spectra of the cooking juices clearly show the sugar profile with respect to constituents and polymerisation, and a careful study has resulted in the discovery of the exact profile that indicates soft, perfectly-cooked pulpo. Researchers believe that this scientific approach will be infallible, and a major advance on approaches based on colour and onions - current best practice.

With tapas-style cooking all the rage in trendy bars and dinner parties around the world, there is little surprise that several television "shopping channels" have shown considerable interest.

"We can speculate dieters and healthy eating fanatics using bench-top NMR coupled with Mnova/SMA in ever-increasing numbers", a famous TV chef, HB, speculated.

We will reveal more on this exciting topic when the IP is in place. Finally, we have not ruled out the possibility of a bespoke instrument just to do this analysis. The name has not been agreed on, but "Perfect Pulpo" has been mooted. The days of "misinformation" recipes (5) must be numbered!


(2) Jakes, W., Gerdova, a., Defernez, M., Watson, a. D., McCallum, C., Limer, E., … Kemsley, E. K. (2015). Authentication of beef versus horse meat using 60MHz 1H NMR spectroscopy. Food Chemistry, 175, 1–9. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.11.110





(References are real.)


About Author

Mike Bernstein

Vice President of R&D of Mestrelab Research S.L. Read his profile here.

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