How to Cook Broccoli

The first step is to cut up the broccoli, unless you are using frozen broccoli which is always pre-cut. Most people keep only the florets, but much of the stem tastes just as good. The only undesirable parts are the leaves and the harder, close-to-woody base of the stem. Cut these away, and then cut-up the broccoli into pieces of the desired size. This is a key consideration for anyone trying to put food on the table with a budget. A big piece of fresh broccoli from the supermarket will be as much as one-third stem. Throwing the entire stem out is a waste of food.

Most often I find myself steaming broccoli. Steaming is a good way of keeping the crisp texture of broccoli while enhancing its color and flavor with a little cooking. It does just enough to bring out the best in the vegetable. I used to use a metal steamer, but now that I am living in my wife’s apartment and using her cookery, I have a Chinese bamboo steamer instead. To use this (or any steamer), choose a pot that will fit the steamer. Put an inch or so of water in, bring it to boil, and place the steamer into the pot. It is not necessary to cover the pot. Leave the vegetables over the steam for 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful to watch the process, so that if the water is about to boil off completely you can add more. This might become an issue if you need to steam a lot of vegetables. Don’t steam them for too long, or the broccoli will gets soggy. That is all that is required: the broccoli is ready to eat after no more than 5 minutes in full steam.

My other choice is to stir fry,  as broccoli is such a classic Chinese food vegetable. Combine broccoli florets with other suitable Chinese stir fry vegetables into a wok with some sesame oil. Fry this for several minutes, and then add the meat. Beef goes well with broccoli in a stir fry. You add the meat later since the vegetables almost always need more time to cook than small chunks or strips of meat. Then season it with stuff like soy sauce, garlic, and/or ginger. Stir frying can be done in many different ways, and is very open to experimentation. In my opinion, there is no set playbook for stir frying anything, including broccoli.

As for the rest, I don’t think one should boil broccoli when they can steam it. Microwaves are for leftovers, and not for real meals made from scratch. Saute-ing broccoli just never caught my fancy; there are other vegetables I save for that. These two cooking methods – the stir fry and the steamer – are all I’ve ever needed for broccoli. However, don’t let my tastes limit your choices. Broccoli is a great vegetable and imminently flexible. Make the most of it.