How To Cook Broccoli

Several cooking methods will turn this much-maligned vegetable into a family favorite.

I am not going to give you a lecture on why you should eat your broccoli. As a child, when your mom was cajoling you to finish your vegetables, she probably filled your ear with all the nutritious benefits to be found in broccoli. While she was correct about that important point, mom only knew one way to cook broccoli, and that was boiled into a soft, green, almost formless mush.

Fortunately, there are actually several delicious ways to prepare broccoli that will make even the most finicky eaters finish their vegetables.

broccoli stalks with knife
Emily Laurae.

How to Buy the Best Broccoli

When buying broccoli, choose a head that has overall bright, green color with little to no brown or yellow spots. Soft stems and limp florets are a sign of old broccoli, so look for a stem that feels firm and a crown that is tight and springy. Fresh broccoli should keep for about a week in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

How to Prepare Broccoli

Whether you love to use broccoli raw in salads, baked into cheesy casseroles, or roasted with a few seasonings and spices, you still need to know how to cut the vegetable.

Trim off the florets: Slice straight through the broccoli stem as close to the crown as you can get. The crown should break into several large florets. Cut through each floret to make uniform, bite-sized pieces.

trimming broccoli stalks into florets
Emily Laurae

Wash the florets: Place the trimmed florets in a colander, and run them under cool water to wash away any grit.

washing broccoli florets
Emily Laurae

Don't toss the stem: The large stem of the broccoli is entirely edible. Trim off any leaves or blemishes and, if you wish, remove the top layer of skin with a vegetable peeler. The bottom inch of the stem is usually dry, so cut that off and discard it. Slice the remaining stem into coin-sized disks and use alongside the broccoli florets, or grate the stem and use it in a broccoli slaw.

cutting broccoli stems
Emily Laurae

What Is the Healthiest Way to Cook Broccoli?

Green and mighty, just one cup of broccoli contains 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, plus plenty of vitamin A, calcium, riboflavin, and fiber. Better yet, this powerhouse vegetable contains a compound called sulforaphane which—according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR)—could help to slow the progression of some forms of cancer. To preserve broccoli's incredible health benefits and anti-cancer properties, the AICR suggests steaming, stir-frying, or briefly microwaving the vegetable.

Blanched Broccoli

The easiest way to cook broccoli is to blanch it. Blanching is a process in which the broccoli is submerged in boiling water for only a few minutes, then transferred into an ice bath to keep it from overcooking and turning mushy. The broccoli florets will turn a vibrant shade of green and maintain a much-needed crunch.

After they've cooked, consider seasoning with a little olive oil or butter and fresh herbs or your favorite seasoning blend. Blanching is also a great way to preserve the flavor and nutrients of your broccoli if you intend to freeze it. Follow these steps to enjoy blanched broccoli in any number of ways, including vegetable platters, pasta dishes, and cold salads.

blanched broccoli in a spoon
Emily Laurae

How to blanch broccoli:

  1. Fill a large bowl or sink with ice water. You'll use this later.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil, and add the broccoli florets. If you're planning to blanch the stems as well, repeat this process with the stems. They won't cook at the same rate as the florets.
  3. Cook until crisp-tender and bright green, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, quickly remove the broccoli florets and immediately plunge them in the ice water to stop the cooking process.
three pieces of broccoli side by side
Emily Laurae

Steamed Broccoli

Steaming broccoli is quick and easy, and it's considered one of the healthiest ways to prepare the vegetable. Instead of submerging the florets and stem into boiling water or roasting them in the oven, the broccoli is placed in a steamer basket over simmering water and covered with a lid. The lid traps the steam, which takes the broccoli from snappy to tender in a matter of minutes. Enjoy steamed broccoli as a side dish drizzled with seasonings and olive oil or a cheese sauce, or stir it into pasta dishes and hearty casseroles.

steamed broccoli
Emily Laurae

How to steam broccoli:

  1. Fill a pot with a few inches of water, and insert a steamer basket over top, being careful not to submerge the basket in the water. (This will give you boiled broccoli rather than steamed.)
  2. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the broccoli florets and stems, and cover with a fitted lid.
  4. Steam for 4 to 5 minutes, until tender.

Sautéed Broccoli

Another great method for preparing broccoli is the simple sauté. If you're looking for a quick side dish or throwing together a stir fry, sautéing broccoli in heated oil or butter will create spots of caramelization on the florets, and caramelization equals big flavor. Just make sure that your broccoli is completely dry before dropping it into the sizzling oil; this helps the pan stay nice and hot and reduces the cooking time.

broccoli sauteing in a pan
Emily Laurae

How to sauté broccoli:

  1. Add a tablespoon or two of oil to a skillet, and set it over medium-high to high heat until the oil sizzles with a drop of water.
  2. Add the florets and a pinch of salt, stirring to coat with oil.
  3. Cook, stirring frequently, until the broccoli is bright green and tender.

Roasted Broccoli

Roasting takes a bit longer than other cooking methods, but if you're looking for tender florets with crispy, browned edges and a complex, earthy flavor, this is the method for you.

To ensure even baking, stir the broccoli halfway through its baking time. Roasted broccoli is versatile: try it on its own or in salads, on pizzas, or even in macaroni and cheese.

roasted broccoli on a baking pan
Emily Laurae

How to roast broccoli:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  2. Make sure the broccoli is dry and toss it with oil, salt, and any other seasonings or herbs you prefer.
  3. Spread the broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. (This makes cleanup easier.)
  4. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping the broccoli once during cooking, until it is crunchy and you can see caramelized brown spots on the florets.
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