Preparing Broccoli

A head of broccoli is like a hologram. Every time you cut into it, you see more of the same.

a head of broccoli
A whole head of

A whole head of broccoli looks like a big tree with a trunk, and limbs that have leaves at the end of the branches. The “fuzzy” cluster at the end of each of the trunks/stems is called a crown. Sometimes you can buy broccoli crowns all separated for you. As with any other product in the grocery store, the more work that has been done for you, the more the item will cost. It’s usually much more economical to do the small amount of work necessary, yourself. But, sometimes you can hit a sale and get the best of both worlds; ease of preparation and value.

This is what you see when you make one cut through the middle of the head, cutting the primary stem in half. The inside is like a forest of smaller crowns all with their own stems leading back to the main one. The stems have a tough skin on the outside and some leaves too. As you cut off the stems, trim the skin and leaves off with a small knife.

a head of broccoli cut through the middle

From one of the halves, cut off some smaller crowns. Some of the crowns with their stems on the inside, are very small, too small to use on their own. Just as with anything else you are preparing to cook, broccoli needs to be cut in similar size pieces, so they will be done at the same time. Therefore, some of your broccoli pieces will have multiple small crowns sprouting from the stem and some of the crowns will be the size you need in one cohesive mound.

large pieces of cut broccoli

So, how do you determine the size of your pieces if a recipe doesn’t specify? Preference. It’s really that simple. If you want a dish with large pieces of vegetable or meat, cut it that way. If you like smaller pieces, cut them that way. Keep in mind that the larger your pieces, the longer they will take to cook. Cooking time will depend on your preference, also. Some like their vegetables in cooked dishes to be tender, and some like them a little crisper. You really need to taste test. After a while, you will recognize how an ingredient will look when it is at different stages of cooking.

With this third cut, we are getting down to the size I want for cooking. Off to the right of my broccoli crowns, is the skin and leaves I have stripped off. On the top right, is an example of a piece that has lots of small crowns on one piece.

crowns of broccoli

On the bottom of the cutting board are the cut and cleaned crowns (which at this size are called a florets) I will use in my dish. This size will cook up pretty quickly, even though I like mine on the tender side. Be careful, tender can turn to mushy pretty easily. And always factor in the time it is going to take to cook other ingredients you may be adding after the broccoli has cooked to some extent. Don’t hesitate to use pieces from the stem. They are very tasty. I always add some small cuts of the original big stem.

large and small crowns of broccoli

Don’t forget to wash your vegetables before you start cooking with them. We have a post in our CLAUDIA’S COOKING TIPS GALLERY about why you should Wash Before You Eat. It is a lighthearted look at an important step in your cooking. Do you want all the germs and bacteria that have made their way to your broccoli crowns, simmering with your intended ingredients? Broccoli should be rinsed off under warm water.

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