How to Steam Broccoli for the Best Results

Steaming is a great way to cook broccoli because it can be more gentle than boiling broccoli. Steaming gives you a little more wiggle room to not miss the perfect doneness since it takes a few extra minutes from start to finish.

Of course it takes both a pot and a steamer so there’s a little more setup and cookware to wash, but steaming can also be healthier since it may help your broccoli retain more of its water-soluable vitamins especially if you know how to prep, and how long to steam the broccoli.

How to select broccoli at the grocery store

three heads of broccoli

Starting with good quality broccoli will get you the best results. If it’s already old or going bad, no cooking method is going to save it.

Start by looking for tight florets and stalks (stems) that are firm. When broccoli gets old it will get soft, flexible, and squishy when it’s really old.

Do a color check too. You want the tops to be dark green with a slight hint of purple at the top. As broccoli ages it will get pale and start to turn yellow and brown.

How to cut and and prepare broccoli for steaming

First trim off the very bottom of the stem since this tends be woodier. The bottom of the stem is older, and it is the first part to dry out while sitting in the fridge section at the grocery store.

Then, cut the stem off close to where the bushy florets start. Cut off individual florets and then cut the stem into pieces to match their size. This assures that everything finishes cooking at the same time. If you were to simply leave the stem whole, it would take much longer to finish cooking.

trimmed brocoli florets and stems

How to soak and wash broccoli

If you simply wash the head of broccoli first, then cut it, there are soooo many nooks and crannies between the mini stems that you can’t reach with your fingers, or even a brush. The best way to prep broccoli is to cut it first, soak, then rinse.

There’s typically not a lot of visible dirt on broccoli, but I like to do a full submersion under water for about five minutes, then throw out that water and give it a rinse under running water as a final pass.

How long to steam broccoli

adding broccoli to steamer

To steam broccoli, I use a bamboo steamer over medium-high heat. However, you could also use a steamer basket. Here’s how to steam broccoli:

  • Wait for the water to boil.
  • Once you see the steam coming through the steamer, add the broccoli and cook for about 5-7 minutes.
  • Check the doneness by using a fork and piercing the broccoli. It should go through easily, but still have some resistance.

Make sure to keep a close eye on the broccoli as it’s steaming. It’s easy to overcook your broccoli by leaving it in a few extra minutes, leaving it mushy.

bowl of steamed broocoli

How to steam broccoli in the microwave

If you’re wondering how to steam broccoli without a steamer, don’t worry! You can also steam broccoli in the microwave. Here’s how:

  • Add water to a microwave safe bowl. The water should just cover the bottom of the bowl. Three tablespoons is typically enough.
  • Place the broccoli florets in the bowl.
  • Cover with a plate or lid.
  • Microwave for 2 minutes and check on texture. Microwave in 30 second intervals until complete. I typically microwave broccoli for 2-3 minutes.

How to steam frozen broccoli

Good news — you steam frozen broccoli just like you steam fresh broccoli. Typically frozen broccoli will cook in about 5 minutes, but make sure to check it often so that you don’t overcook.

steaming broccoli in bamboo steamer

Steaming is typically gentler than boiling broccoli since it is not fully submerged and covered in boiling water. This typically makes it take a little longer to cook but it means the centers of the stalks will be more evenly cooked to match the outside. Steamed broccoli has also been found to retain more nutrients than boiled broccoli.

Once your broccoli is steamed, eat it plain or sprinkle some lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, pepper, or grated parmesan on top for added flavor.

steamed broccoli closeup
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How to Steam Broccoli

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword steamed broccoli, steamed vegetables
Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Total Time 14 minutes
Servings 2


  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • strainer or salad spinner
  • pan
  • steamer


  • 2 heads broccoli
  • water
  • salt optional
  • lemon optional


  • Cut 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 water to the bottom of a pan (about 1 inch) and put a steamer over the pan. Bring the water to a boil and watch for the steam to appear through the steamer.
  • Open the steamer and add the broccoli. Cook for 5-7 minutes. 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 them from cooking further. You don’t have to do this part, but I like to stop the cooking immediately.
  • Season with salt and/or lemon and serve.