Broccoli gets a bad rap. For every broccoli lover you meet, you’ll probably meet two or three people with dreadful childhood memories of the stuff. What did this poor Brassica vegetable ever do to earn this love-hate relationship? It’s not what broccoli did. It’s what we did to it.
Cooking broccoli not only unlocks key nutrients, but it also brings out its ultra-bright color. If you overcook it, though, that beautiful green quickly fades to an unappetizing brown, and the broccoli itself becomes a pile of mush. Save your broccoli from this sad fate by cooking it using one of the methods below. It never hurts to smother the broccoli in butter or cheese, just to be safe!
How to Cook Broccoli
Blanching is the most classic method to lock-in broccoli’s stand-out color. Since it doesn’t cook the broccoli all the way through—just until it’s tender-crisp—this method is ideal for preparing broccoli for the freezer if you bought too much. It’s also perfect for veggie platters, salads or casseroles.
How to make it: The key to using this cooking technique is to have an ice bath at the ready to stop the cooking process. After chopping your broccoli into florets, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Depending on how much broccoli you have, you shouldn’t need more than a gallon of water. Add a pinch of salt and add your florets in batches, not adding so much that the water stops boiling. Cook for 15 to 30 seconds, until the color turns bright green. Remove the broccoli to your water bath using a slotted straining spoon and continue blanching until all the broccoli is cooked.
Like blanching, steaming sets broccoli’s color and unlocks its nutrients, but it also cooks the vegetable all the way through. But, because the broccoli never touches the water, steaming also allows the veggie to retain its water-soluble vitamins during the process. Steaming is perfect for making side dishes, pasta or rice bowls.
How to make it: The easiest way to steam broccoli is in the microwave. Place the florets in a microwave-safe dish and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Cover the dish and microwave on High for 3 to 4 minutes. Or, you can do it the old-fashioned way: Place a steamer basket full of broccoli in a pot with an inch of boiling water. Cook over high heat with the lid on for about 5 minutes.
This method is definitely my personal favorite! Roasting the broccoli in a high-temperature oven gives it beautifully caramelized edges and a crispy texture. It’s sweet, rich and almost creamy. It tastes good in just about everything, from sheet pan dinners to using it as a pizza topping. You could also shave some Parmesan on top after it’s roasted to create a side dish that no one can resist.
How to make it: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut your broccoli into similarly shaped pieces to ensure they’ll roast evenly. Toss the broccoli with a few teaspoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Lay them in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes, until the broccoli is tender-crisp and the edges are slightly browned.
Stir-fried broccoli is delicious no matter how you cut it, partly because of the high-heat cooking (but mostly because of that delicious sauce). In addition to Asian-style stir fries, sautéed broccoli is delicious as a stand-alone side, but you can also add it to frittatas or casseroles.
How to make it: The key to good sautéed broccoli is making sure it’s very dry before you start. After washing it, spin it in a salad spinner or pat it dry with a kitchen towel. Heat a wok or skillet over medium-high heat and add a teaspoon of olive oil. Add the broccoli with a pinch of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes (if desired) and toss to coat. Cook for 5 minutes, until the broccoli is bright green.
Test Kitchen Tip: Sautéing broccoli is also a great opportunity to use up the stems! Chop them into a small dice and add them 1 minute before adding the florets.
If you’re still not convinced that broccoli can be delicious, try some of our superstar broccoli recipes.