I cannot escape the feeling that vegetables are somehow being wronged.
Sure, millions of people eat nothing but vegetables, but even so, as much as, or even more, people just can’t bear them. Children are scared of eating broccoli.
The question that’s been puzzling me for quite some time was, “Why?” Vegetables are both delicious, and they pack an endless list of valuable nutrients.
When cooked right, veggies can stand toe-to-toe with anything the animal world has to offer.
And then it struck me – it’s because of the way we cook them. Yes, cooking is vegetables’ very own Achilles’ heel. It deprives them of both their taste and of the vitamins and minerals they are so willing to share with us.
On the other hand, keeping the vegetables raw, although attractive in the short run, does know to become pretty stale after some time.
It’s time to see what are the optimal vegetable cooking times and how to pull off this (surprisingly demanding) task right.
Vegetable Cooking Times
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The Ultimate Vegetable Cooking Times
We can find a solution to the first problem in keeping the veggies as raw as possible. They do, however, need a certain time on a stove. So, how to reach that happy middle ground?
The answer is – you should try to cook the vegetables until they’re soft but still have a bite to them. Yes, this sounds pretty vague, so here’s a list of some of the most popular veggies and the minimal times you need to cook them:
- Beets and small roots – 11-13 minutes (13-15 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Brussel sprouts – 3-4 minutes (4-5 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Carrots – 2-3 minutes (3-4 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Escarole – 1-2 minutes (2-3 if they’re frozen)
- Green beans – 2-3 minutes (3-4 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Onions – 2-3 minutes (3-4 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Parsnips – 1-2 minutes (2-3 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Peas in the holder – 1-2 minutes (2-3 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Green peas – 1-2 minutes (2-3 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Potatoes – 10-12 minutes (12-14 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Pumpkin (large chunks) – 8-10 minutes (10-14 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Sweet potato – 12-15 minutes (15-19 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Tomatoes – 3-5 minutes (5-7 minutes if they’re frozen)
- Turnip – 2-4 minutes (4-6 minutes if they’re frozen)
Disclaimer: I am talking about the small amount of food here. Let’s say a one-person meal. If you want to make a meal for more people at once, feel free to extend the cooking times by 20-40%. Also, these time-frames work exceptionally well with steaming. They also work very well with other cooking methods, but they are meant for steaming.
But how to steam properly? Scroll below.
The Ultimate Vegetable Cooking Methods
And now, we come to the other part of the equation we know as “well-prepared vegetables.” If the previous section was concerned with theory, mastering the cooking methods will allow you to put the knowledge into practice.
Again, the times I mentioned above are aimed at preserving the vegetables’ valuable nutrients. If you like them baked or roasted longer, feel free to stack up a few minutes.
- Steaming – Let’s get this clear – steaming is the single best way to cook vegetables. If you steam them, you’ll give them what they need to become a part of a delicious meal while maximizing their taste, color, and nutritional value. Try doing that together with fish; you’ll be very pleasantly surprised. As for the cooking process – it’s rather simple. You only need a saucepan and a steamer basket. Fill the saucepan with 1/2 inch of water, place the vegetables in the steamer and then put the steamer into the saucepan. Cover tightly, heat to boiling, and stick to the times mentioned above.
- Roasting – One would assume that roasting would ultimately destroy vegetables, but, surprisingly – that’s not the case. Sure, the nutritional value will get the shorter end of the stick, but the taste and smell will more than make up for that. First, you’ll have to heat up the oven. Use the spare time to cut the plants and prepare the seasoning. Once the oven reaches the temperature of 450 В°F, put the veggies in and roast them according to instructions. Now, if you are experimenting with some new vegetables, I failed to mention, you won’t have the privilege of pulling them out to see if they’re ready. However, when they’re roast enough, they’ll get brown and crisp on the outside.
- Baking – Baking and vegetables are not the words we often put together. And yet, this combination works very well. Essentially, baking is very similar to roasting – it’s just meant for the people who appreciate the natural veggies taste better. Meaning, this time, you are going to skip the oil and the seasoning. Also, you’ll want to turn down the heater a bit. Don’t go beyond 350 °F.
- Sautéing – Deriving its name from the French word sauté (bounced), sautéing is probably the second-best way to cook vegetables. Some would even say – it’s as efficient as steaming. Why? Well, when it comes to vegetables, sautéing usually means cutting the vegetables into small pieces, putting them over high heat, and stirring the pieces to save them from burning. This way, vegetables pick up a lot of flavors (try doing this together with butter) while their nutritional value comes off intact because of the short time spent overheat and, of course, the constant stirring.
- Boiling – Boiling hast to be vegetables’ arch-nemesis and the very reason why they’ve earned such a bad rep. To put it simply, it destroys vegetables’ look, taste, and nutritional value. But, to give boiling some credit, it’s necessary to prepare some amazing dishes, and you can cut the loss by shortening the cooking time. So, fill the saucepan with 1 inch of water, heat it to the boiling point, put in the vegetables, and take the time limits above more as advice than a rule (cut them by a minute or so).
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Tips for Becoming a Master
These are the finesses that separate cooks from chefs. Do you want to know how to make vegetables even more delicious? Here’s how:
- Don’t prepare the veggies too early – Boiling is not the only thing that ruins the veggies. If you wash them too soon, they will begin to wilt. If you chop them too far in advance, oxidation will come and take its toll on the healthy nutrients. To avoid these unfortunate outcomes, prepare the veggies right before cooking, or at least wrap them in a paper towel once you finish the preparation.
- “Shock” the vegetables – When you pull the veggies out of the oven, boiling water or a saucepan, they will continue to fall victim to their heat until they completely cool off. You can considerably speed up this process by plunging them into the ice-cool water and leaving them to dry.
- Don’t toss out the good parts – Vegetables are far more edible than you might think. Tossing out stalks, skins, and leaves means you are losing lots of vitamins. As a matter of fact, in some cases, these parts pack even more vitamins than the ones we usually eat.
- Synchronize the cooking times – Vegetables offer the most flavor when you cook them together. So, start cooking with the vegetables that have a similar cooking schedule and throw in the new participants when their time arrives. Exhausting? Sometimes. Too excessive? No – nothing truly exceptional comes without a price.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan – A very common mistake, but a mistake nevertheless. First of all, too many vegetables will spread the oil too thin, so they won’t have an opportunity to reach the optimal temperature. Second, a crowded saucepan will steam the vegetables without caramelizing them or getting them crisp as you intended.
I hope that this short guide made you appreciate vegetables more than you did.
You may even try out some new recipes, huh? As for you who have fallen in love with vegetables a long time ago – It’s time to revive your passion and ignite the love all over again.
This time, like a true professional. 😉
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