February 21, 2017
Vegetable Cheat Sheet: How to Cook Them Every Way
Cook vegetables perfectly every single time with this handy guide
There’s a perfectly good reason that so many people say they don’t enjoy eating vegetables: most of the time, they’re just not cooked properly. When vegetables are introduced to heat, their color and flavor changes, and over- or under-cooking vegetables can leave them less than delicious. In his book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Harold McGee says, “the challenge of cooking vegetables is to create an appealing texture without comprising color, flavor, and nutrition.” If you want to eat (and enjoy) more vegetables, you’ll have to know how to cook them to perfection.
With so many vegetables and so many cooking methods, how do you ensure you cook them correctly every time? While just about any cooking method can be applied to just about any vegetable with enough practice and attention to detail, some greens are better suited to a particular method than others. Hardy root vegetables like beets, carrots, and potatoes are better for oven-roasting than watery vegetables like cucumbers or celery, for example. Unpredictable cooking methods, like microwaving, should be avoided if possible (microwave ovens vary in power and they make it difficult to check the doneness of vegetables as they cook).
In order to ensure perfectly cooked and perfectly delicious vegetables every time, you need to know two things: which cooking methods are best for a particular vegetable, and a few tips for cooking them. We’ve got both. Use the handy cheat sheet below to find out which cooking methods are best for some commonly cooked vegetables and read on to see more about each cooking method.
Vegetable Cheat Sheet
Asparagus: Best when grilled, roasted, or steamed
Beets: Best when roasted or steamed
Brussels Sprouts: Best when pan-cooked, roasted, or steamed
Carrots: Best when braised, stewed, roasted, or steamed
Corn: Best when boiled or grilled
Eggplant: Best when grilled, pan-cooked, or roasted
Green Beans: Best when boiled, braised, stewed, battered and deep-fried, or steamed
Hardy, Leafy Greens: Best when braised, stewed, pan-cooked, roasted, or steamed
Mushrooms: Best when braised, stewed, grilled, or pan-cooked
Peas: Best when boiled or steamed
Peppers: Best when braised, stewed, grilled, or pan-cooked
The trick to cooking vegetables in water is not to overcook them or leach their flavor. For best results, don’t cut vegetables into small pieces (every cut surface is an opportunity for flavor to escape) — and cook them for less than 10 minutes in a large volume of salted water.
Top picks for boiling: Corn, green beans, peas, and potatoes
Braising and Stewing
Much like boiling, braising and stewing can easily lead to overcooked vegetables. If you’re planning to cook vegetables this way, remove the vegetables from the cooking liquid once they are fully cooked and then add them back into the dish when you’re ready to serve it. Or, simply add fresh vegetables during the last minutes of cooking.
Top picks for braising and stewing: Carrots, hardy greens, and potatoes
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal's Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.