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Seven Ways to Prepare and Cook Broccoli

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Just out of the garden, soak broccoli for about 10 minutes in salty water. This ensures any tiny bugs still hiding out will be dispatched. Then I rinse each flower head under cold running water.

You’ll want to cut away the tough lower stalk leaving just 3 inches or so below the base of the flower tops. Next, cut the florets apart so that they are about equal in size.

Marinate raw broccoli florets in a casserole with a vinaigrette dressing or a little olive oil; you can add a tad of minced garlic just before serving.

Also serve raw broccoli with lemon and butter or Hollandaise sauce, grated or melted cheese, sour cream, or plain yogurt. Match broccoli florets with equal bites of cauliflower, carrots, pimiento, mushroom, or green onions.

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broccoli florets
Broccoli florets

Fresh broccoli will have a delicate flavor and texture.

The peak season for broccoli is early fall through early spring. Cool weather sweetens the taste of broccoli so for the best flavor fresh broccoli should come to the table before the weather warms.

How to choose broccoli

  • Select broccoli with tightly closed, compact bud clusters and even deep green color. The stems should be a lighter green than the buds.
  • Avoid broccoli with large, thick, whitish stalks. They will be tough, woody, and strong tasting.
  • Avoid yellowing or wilted stems or leaves.
  • When broccoli heads begin to form dots of yellow, the plant is about to flower and should be harvested right away.

How to store broccoli

  • Refrigerate broccoli unwashed in an airtight bag for up to 4 days.
  • Broccoli can be frozen for up to 3 months after it has been blanched.

How to prepare broccoli

  • Soak broccoli in salted water or vinegar for 10 minutes to dislodge any insects.
  • Remove tough leaves and wash the florets in cold water before eating or cooking.
  • If you plan to cook the stalks, trim the butt end first and then peel the stalks before cooking.
Broccoli florets
Separate the flower heads from the stalks to cook separately

How to prepare broccoli for cooking

  • The flower heads cook more quickly than the stalks.
  • Separate the flower heads from the stalks to cook separately, or evenly split the stalks lengthwise in halves or quarters and slice them all the way up to but not through the flower head.
  • The heads can be cooked whole or if they are too large they can be separated into florets for even cooking.

How to blanch broccoli

  1. Prepare a bowl of ice water for cooling the broccoli after cooking.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil. Add a tablespoon of salt.
  3. Add the broccoli florets (if cooking separate from the stems; see above) and cook for 1 1/2 minutes until crisp-tender.
  4. Remove florets with a slotted spoon and plunge immediately into the ice water.
  5. Bring water in the pot back to a boil, then cook 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until the stems are also just tender, a bit longer for less crisp stems.

How to steam broccoli in the microwave

  1. Place the broccoli florets and stems in a microwave-safe dish.
  2. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of water over the top.
  3. Cover the dish and microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Remove the lid carefully and check if the broccoli is tender.
  5. Microwave in additional 1-minute bursts until tender if necessary.
Steamed broccoli florets
Steamed broccoli florets

How to steam broccoli on the stovetop

  1. Add a few inches of water to a pot then insert a steamer basket. The water should not touch the bottom of the steamer basket.
  2. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the broccoli florets and stems and cover.
  4. Steam for 4 to 5 minutes or more if necessary until tender.

How to sauté broccoli

  1. Place a skillet with a light coating of oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the florets and a pinch of salt.
  3. Toss the florets to coat with oil.
  4. Add the stems 1 minute later.
  5. Cook and stir frequently, until the broccoli is bright green and tender.

How to stir-fry broccoli

  1. Use a wok that’s cast iron, stainless steel, or rolled carbon steel.
  2. Heat a wok over high heat for several minutes.
  3. Add oil, preferably canola, peanut, or another oil with a high smoke point.

How to roast broccoli

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Toss dry florets and stems with a few teaspoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  3. Spread the broccoli on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer
  4. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the broccoli is crunchy there are caramelized brown spots.

How to bake broccoli

  1. Add broccoli to baked dishes including casseroles, frittatas, quiches, and pasta. 
  2. For tender broccoli in baked dishes, steam florets before baking.
Broccoli soup
Broccoli soup with cream.

How to purée broccoli for soup

  1. Chop florets and peel the stems.
  2. Simmer florets and stems until tender in chicken or vegetable stock.
  3. Purée in a blender with other soup ingredients. 

How to use broccoli stalks raw

  1. Shave stalks into ribbons with a Y-shaped peeler with a horizontal blade. The horizontal blade allows even pressure against the stalks when making the ribbons.
  2. Add the ribbons to a green salad or coleslaw or toss with a vinaigrette and sprinkle with cheese, and you have yourself a perfect summer salad.

How to quick serve broccoli

Steam flower heads or florets in about an inch of water; remove the cover from time to time to let the steam escape. (This will keep the broccoli green.) Test with a fork in about 15 minutes. Never cook broccoli past the point where it is just tender or “al dente.”

Again before cooking, rinse the florets thoroughly in cool water and cut away any woody portions of the stalk end. Use a sharp knife to divide thick stems into quarters by cutting two slits from the bottom up almost to where the head forms. This ensures that stalks cook through by the time the more delicate florets do.

  • Simmer broccoli for 5 to 15 minutes for large pieces, and 3 to 8 minutes for smaller or quartered florets.
  • Sauté small florets or quarters for 5 minutes or until tender.
  • Pan-fry florets in a wet batter until the crust is golden brown.

Season florets with salt, pepper, caraway seed, dill, mustard, or tarragon

One cooked flower head and stalk will give you one-and-a-half times the vitamin C you needed each day, half the vitamin A, and significant amounts of riboflavin, iron, calcium, and potassium. One stalk equals about 32 calories.

Steamed broccoli
Break up raw flowerets into a salad or serve them with a dipping sauce or vinaigrette.

How to serve broccoli

  • The key to capturing broccoli at its sweetest is to take it out of the field or garden before the weather warms too much and get it onto the table right away.
  • The young emerald-green florets of broccoli can be served raw dressed with vinaigrette or accompanied by a dipping sauce.
  • Mature broccoli—both the budded flowers and stems–can be boiled or steamed and eaten cold as a salad or hot as a side dish.
  • Broccoli can be served raw as an appetizer with a dressing or cut up on a salad. Break up raw flowerets into a salad or serve them with a dipping sauce or vinaigrette.
  • Create broccoli slaw with peeled and shredded stalks.
  • Cooked broccoli is good warm or cold when still slightly firm or crunchy.
  • Cooked broccoli can be served with cheese, béchamel, Mornay, béarnaise or Hollandaise sauce, au gratin, or in casseroles, or with melted butter or puréed.
  • Add broccoli to soups, stews, omelets, soufflés, quiches, and pasta.

Broccoli flavor partners

  • Broccoli has a flavor affinity for anchovy, balsamic vinegar, butter, cheese, chicken, chiles, garlic, lemon pasta, and sausage.

Broccoli nutrition

  • Broccoli is rich in vitamins A and C and is a good source of potassium and fiber.
  • One large broccoli stalk contains 32 calories.
Broccoli in garden
Broccoli is always harvested before its buds open to yellow flowers. The plant’s stems and leaves are also edible.

Get to know broccoli

  • Broccoli is a hardy biennial grown as an annual. The tight clusters of tiny blue-green flower buds that grow at the stalk ends can be eaten raw or cooked. The stems are usually cooked.
  • Broccoli is usually green but can be also white or purple. The plant grows 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) tall with a central stalk that grows to 36 inches (90 cm) high.
  • Broccoli is always harvested before its buds open to yellow flowers. The plant’s stems and leaves are also edible.
  • Broccoli is also sometimes called spouting broccoli, Italian broccoli, Calabrese, and brocks.
  • Calabrese or sprouting broccoli is actually a variety of broccoli with large, tightly packed blue-green flowers. The flower head of Calabrese is larger than other broccoli. Calabrese is named after the town of Calabria in Italy.
  • Broccoli Romanesco—sometimes called romanesco or broccoflower—is not all broccoli but a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. Romanesco has a distinctive yellow-green pointed spiral cone-like flower that is edible. Its flavor is somewhere between broccoli and cauliflower.

Broccoli facts and trivia

  • Broccoli is one of the oldest members of the cabbage family. It got its start on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean and in southern Italy. The ancient Greeks and Romans were eating broccoli 2,000 years ago.
  • The word broccoli is a corruption of the Latin brachium which means “strong arm” or “branch” a reference to the plant’s stout stems and tree-like resemblance.
  • From Italy, broccoli spread to Northern Europe. Catherine de Medici introduced broccoli to French cuisine when she became the queen of France in the mid-sixteenth century.
  • Thomas Jefferson brought broccoli seeds from Italy to Monticello, but broccoli did not catch on in the United States until the 1920s when the vegetable-growing D’Arrigo brothers of Northern California’s Santa Clara Valley started advertising broccoli on national radio.

The botanical name for broccoli is Brassica oleracea var. italica.

Broccoli articles at Harvest to Table:

How to Plant and Grow Broccoli

Broccoli Seed Starting Tips

How to Harvest and Store Broccoli

Broccoli Growing Problems: Troubleshooting

Seven Ways to Cook and Serve Broccoli

How to Grow Broccoli Raab

Four Ways to Cook and Serve Broccoli Raab

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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