Good broccoli is grassy, earthy and toothsome without being too tender. Bad broccoli, on the other hand, is borderline mushy, flavorless and bleak. (No wonder we hated our parents’ plain iterations so much as kids.) Luckily, good broccoli is easier to attain than it seems, and there’s a slew of methods that can be used to whip it up. Read on to learn how to cook broccoli five different ways, each one actually appetizing.
But First…How to Prep Broccoli
Before we get cooking, you’ll need to know how to prepare and cut the broccoli head into florets. When shopping for broccoli at the grocery store, look for broccoli heads sporting firm stalks and tightly packed florets. If you see a browning stem or yellowing tops, keep looking. Now, here’s how to prepare broccoli for cooking:
Step 1: Thoroughly wash the broccoli head under running water. Peel away any outer leaves on the stalk.
Step 2: Chop off the bottom of the stalk, about a ½-inch. Broccoli stalks are totally edible, they’re just tougher than the florets. So, shave the stalk down with a hand peeler so it isn’t as tough, then chop it into coins or strips if you’d like to use every part of the broccoli. Discard the stalk if you don’t plan on eating it.
Step 3: Lay the broccoli head on its side and chop off the florets with one horizontal cut. Cut or break off all the florets, slicing excessively large florets in half as you see fit. Feel free to wash and dry the florets again.
Now that your broccoli is ready to use…
1. How to Blanch Broccoli
Boiling broccoli is arguably the most common way to prepare it, but it’s also the easiest way to suck out all of its texture and flavor. The key? Not overcooking it. Blanching the broccoli once it’s boiled (aka submerging it in an ice bath straight out of the hot pot) will help it retain some of its crispness, since it stops the cooking process in its tracks, as well as retains its bright green color.
Step 1: Boil a pot of salted water over high heat. When the water begins to boil, add the broccoli florets to the pot for about 5 minutes or until they reach your desired tenderness.
Step 2: While the broccoli boils, fill a large bowl with cool water and ice. When the broccoli is done boiling, scoop the florets up with a slotted spoon and place them in the ice bath.
Step 3: Drain the broccoli before serving or continuing to cook with them.
2. How to Steam Broccoli
Instead of dumping the broccoli into the pot of boiling water, you can steam it atop the pot for a crisper, fresher final product—its vibrant color is just a plus. That’s because the steam cooks the vegetable more gently than boiling water would. If you have a steamer, great. If you don’t, you can use a pot or skillet with a lid and a colander that fits inside. You can even make it in the microwave if you feel so inclined.
Step 1: Add about two inches of water to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Place your steamer basket atop the pot.
Step 2: Once the water is boiling, add the broccoli to the basket and cover for about 5 minutes or until it reaches your desired tenderness.
3. How to Sauté Broccoli
If you like your broccoli browned and crispy, sautéing is the quickest way to get your fix. The florets will be equal parts crisp and tender, especially if you quickly steam the florets after browning by adding a few dashes of water and covering the pan.
Step 1: Add a glug or two of cooking oil (EVOO or vegetable oil work fine) to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the broccoli florets to the pan.
Step 2: Cook the broccoli, stirring sparingly until its color enhances and the florets partially brown, about 7 to 8 minutes. If you’d like to steam the broccoli, let it brown for about 5 minutes instead, then add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan and cover with a lid until the broccoli reaches your desired tenderness. (Be sure not to put too much water—it could ruin the crispy bits you already browned.)
Try it: Spicy Broccoli Sauté
4. How to Roast Broccoli
If you have plenty of time to spare, roasting broccoli ensures a crisp-tender texture and deep flavor that blanching, steaming and sautéing don’t. We favor roasting it at a higher temp for a shorter cook time and impeccable browning, but you can also slow-roast the broccoli at about 300°F if you have all night. Roasting it low and slow will concentrate its flavor even more and provide you with all kinds of caramelized, crispy browned bits.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the broccoli in cooking oil and season, then place on a lined, rimmed sheet pan.
Step 2: Roast the broccoli until browned and tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir halfway through to prevent burning. If you notice the flowery tops getting too dark before the stalks soften, feel free to lower the heat.
5. How to Grill Broccoli
Why should corn get to have all the fun? Broccoli is just as grillable. While roasting it in the oven will get you similar results, grilled broccoli is a great side dish idea if you’re already firing up the grill for a main. If you’re grilling indoors on a grill pan or contact grill, feel free to use the cut florets as is. If you’re using a real barbecue with an open grate, those florets will likely fall through (unless you choose to skewer them). So, cut the broccoli heads into steaks instead: Rest the broccoli on its top and slice it from the stem down into thick, flat slabs, just like you would cabbage or cauliflower.
Step 1: Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. While it heats, toss the broccoli in cooking oil and season as desired.
Step 2: Grill the broccoli until charred and fork-tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Loose florets may cook faster than thick steaks. If cooking steaks, flip them after about 5 minutes.