How Long to Boil Broccoli for Perfect Results
Fresh and al dente broccoli is great for a healthy side dish for any meal. No one likes soggy and overcooked broccoli! Use this recipe and learn how to get the perfect texture for broccoli when boiling.
If you have a steamer and don’t mind it taking a tiny bit longer, and washing another cooking vessel for the benefit of more evenly cooked veggies and potentially more vitamin content, check out my post on steaming broccoli.
How to choose broccoli at the grocery store
Finding fresh broccoli at the grocery store is one of the most important steps in this recipe because you don’t want old and soggy greens. To find the best broccoli, use these tips:
- Try to find broccoli with tight florets and firm stalks. Touch the bottom of the stalks to see if they are hard and firm–this means they are fresher. You don’t want soft or squishy stalks.
- Look over the color of the entire broccoli (from florets to stem), it should be dark greenish purple with no yellowing or browning whatsoever.
Once you bring broccoli home, keep it in the fridge unbagged or with an open bag unwashed. This should keep for about 5-7 days before it starts to go bad.
How to prepare broccoli for boiling
I like to prepare my broccoli by cutting it down into bite-sized pieces. First cut off about ½ an inch from the bottom stem to remove any woody parts. Then slice right where the florets begin on the stem.
Save the stems, they’re just as delicious! Cut these into even pieces and peel the skin to remove any extra woody skin. You can cook these right along with the broccoli later.
For the florets, I like to separate them by splitting them from the bottom (the stem side) as evenly as possible so they all cook at the same rate. If they’re thicker than the average floret, I will cut them in half.
Wash and prep tips
I prefer to cut my broccoli before I wash them so I can get every nook and cranny. Sometimes the florets are so tight that washing before cutting will leave behind excess dirt.
To get as much of the dirt off the broccoli, I rinse them under running water and then soak them in water for 5 minutes to make sure I reach all the small spaces in between the florets. If you have a salad spinner this is a great way to use it to soak the broccoli. You can also use a strainer over a large bowl.
How long to boil broccoli
I like to boil broccoli for about 3-5 minutes to get a slight al dente texture. You can check the doneness by piercing a piece of broccoli with a fork. More on that next.
How do you know when broccoli is done boiling
To test if broccoli is done boiling, poke it with a fork. If it goes through with a little resistance, it’s done. I like to use a fork more than a knife to test if the broccoli is ready because knives are so sharp that they can tend to pierce the broccoli much more easily, giving you a false sense of doneness.
After boiling, rinse the broccoli under cold running water to stop the cooking process and maintain a crispy texture.
Should you cover broccoli when boiling
I prefer to cook broccoli uncovered. This will prevent the water from boiling over.
How to blanch broccoli
Blanching is similar to boiling, except you boil the broccoli for a slightly shorter timeframe and shock it with ice water right after boiling. I suggest blanching broccoli for 2-3 minutes and then placing it in an ice bath until cooled.
The texture of blanched broccoli will be slightly crunchier. Blanching also helps broccoli maintain their bright green color. If you’ve ever over-boiled broccoli, you’ve seen it turn a dull green.
You may blanch broccoli because you prefer a crunchy texture, or because you’re preparing to freeze it.
How long should you boil frozen broccoli
Speaking of frozen broccoli, you can boil it in 3-5 minutes, similar to regular broccoli. Use the fork test at 3 minutes, and check frequently until it’s ready.
You should know that boiled frozen broccoli tends to be soggier than fresh broccoli, so you may not want to boil it unless you’re mixing it into another dish and don’t mind the texture. If you’re eating it plain, try sautéing instead!
Once your broccoli is cooked, top with lemon juice or the seasoning of your choice and enjoy!
How to Boil Broccoli
- strainer or salad spinner
- Cutting board
- 2 heads broccoli
- salt optional
- lemon optional
- Cut about ½ inch above the bottom stem to remove the woody bottom.
- Cut just where the florets meet the stem to separate them. Make even cuts on the stem so they are about 1 inch or the same size. Peel the tough skin around each stem piece.
- Separate the florets by their stems and cut down larger florets so that each is the same size.
- Run all broccoli pieces underwater and then soak them for 5 minutes in a water bath.
- Add enough water to a pot to cook the broccoli. I add about 6 cups of water to my 3.5 quart pot. Bring the water to a boil then add the broccoli.
- Cook for about 3-5 minutes depending on the texture you want in your broccoli. To test the doneness, pierce with a fork. If it comes through the broccoli with a slight resistance, it’s done.
- Optional: run the broccoli under cold water to stop it from cooking further. You don’t have to do this part, but I like to stop the cooking immediately. You can avoid this once you gain experience with timing: you can pull the broccoli out before it reaches your desired doneness and let it finish cooking while resting on the counter.
- Season with salt and/or lemon and serve.