There are a few ways you can wash broccoli making it ready to cook and eat with ease. And this humble vegetable is certainly worth the effort! It is just so versatile and a common staple in many homes throughout the world. Being widely available, it lends itself to many different cuisines as both a side dish or part of the main event.

The most recognizable part of the broccoli are the florets (also known as flowering heads or crown). However, the leaves and stalks are also edible, much like it closest relative – the cauliflower. Broccoli is both delicious and nutritious, providing vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants (which help fight against various illnesses and age related conditions). But it can also be hard to clean as it has many cracks and crevices that can hold dirt and grit which will affect the final taste and texture of your dish. So, to avoid this happening to you (or your dinner guests), lets dive into how to wash and clean broccoli properly.

How to wash broccoli like a pro

The three main methods to wash broccoli

There are three main ways to wash and clean broccoli. These methods do vary depending on how much time you have and the amount of effort you can muster.

The easiest and fastest way – Just add running water

Rinse the vegetable, stalk and all, under cool running water. Ensure that you focus on the florets (flowering heads), gently rubbing away any dirt, grit or mud you may find hiding among the crevices. It is best to hold the stalk, facing upwards, to allow the water to flow through the florets from underneath. If you wash it with the florets facing up, you may find that the water just flows over the broccoli, but doesn’t really penetrate the florets effectively.

Soak in water

Alternatively, soak the broccoli in a bowl of water (or just fill up your sink) for 5 – 10 minutes, to loosen any dirt. Make sure the whole broccoli is submerged. You can do this by putting a plate on top of the bowl to weigh the broccoli down. Then, remove the broccoli and wash it under cool running water, using your hands (or a vegetable scrubbing brush) to remove any dirt that soaking did not shift. Soaking will make removing dirt easier as it will have loosened up any dirt present.

Wash your broccoli with just water

Soak with additional oomph!

If you suspect that your broccoli is home to aphids, cabbage worms or other pests, you may give the soaking process a little more oomph buy adding vinegar, salt or a combination of both (depending on what you have in your pantry). With whichever ingredients you choose to add, soak the broccoli for 5 – 20 minutes in the vinegar/salt solution. The longer you leave it, the more time you give the pest to exit the flowering heads. However, if you leave it longer than 30 minutes, your broccoli may start to wilt or loose some of the nutrients to the surrounding water.

How to wash broccoli with vinegar

I use 1 part cheap white vinegar, to 9 parts water and/or 1 teaspoon of salt for 1 liter of water. The vinegar and/or salt will encouraged pests to detach from the broccoli. I also go a step further and use my hands to swish the broccoli around vigorously to removed as many pests as possible. Then, the bugs/caterpillers can be removed using a spoon prior to taking the broccoli out for rinsing under running water. You can leave the pests in the bowl, just make sure they don’t reattach when you take the broccoli out. Finally, rinse the broccoli thoroughly to wash away any vinegar or salt residue as it may affect the final taste of your dish.

Preparation – before you wash the broccoli

If I have prepared the broccoli before I wash it, it results in a better, more thoroughly cleaned vegetable. This maybe due to the water/solution penetrating the florets more effectively by increasing the surface area exposed to the water/solution.

To do this:

  • Cut off the bottom few centimeters of the stalk removing any dry, cracked or hardened parts. This should reveal a nice, fresh, pale green center.
  • Then use a small, sharp knife to make a cut at the bottom of the stalk, a couple of millimeters below the toughened skin.
  • Using a thumb, apply pressure to the skin of the broccoli, holding it against the knife blade.
Start by trimming off the tough outer skin of the stalk
  • Peel the tough skin of the broccoli up toward the florets and discard it. You can remove more of the skin on the stalk, but I usually just let it break off where ever it naturally occurs. The skin is normally quite thin and no longer tough, at that breaking point.
  • Rotate the stalk and repeat the process until all the toughened skin has been removed, leaving the tender inner flesh underneath.
Remove the bottom of the stalk and tough outer skin
  • Then cut the florets off the stalk and prepare as desired. You can cut them off where they join the main stalk or cut them into smaller pieces. How you cut them will depend on the requirements for your dish.
Chop your cleaned broccoli to required size for cooking
  • With the remaining stalk, you can also prepare that as you like. I usually cut it into sticks to fry them with noodles or into small chunks to put them into a salad.
  • Once the broccoli has been prepared in this manner, I proceed with washing it using one of the methods above.
  • If you choose to prepare the broccoli before you wash it, I would use a colander to rinse the vegetable as it can be fiddly to rinse the individual florets. But, if that’s what you prefer, feel free to do that instead. Its all down to your personal preference.
Put the cut broccoli in a colander for faster cleaning

How to choose the best of the bunch

When picking broccoli, you want to look for a head whose flowers are tightly packed and a lovely shade of deep green. You want to avoid any broccoli that has any discolored patches of yellowing or brown areas, as well as those that have black spots or mould of any kind. You will also want to ensure the stalk and florets are fairly firm and the whole broccoli looks fresh and not wilting.

If you see a discoloured patch in the center at the bottom of the stalk, this indicates that that particular broccoli is old and is one to be avoided as stalk can sometimes be tough and stringy. Or you may have to cut away most of the stalk to get to the tender, edible parts. And no one wants that if it can be helped. Same applies if the stalk is cracked or appears particularly dried up or shrivelled.

Cracked stalks indicate old broccoli - something to try to avoid

How to store broccoli

To ensure your broccoli stays as fresh as possible for as long as possible, it is recommended to only wash it just prior to cooking it as any residual water remaining on the broccoli after washing will cause the vegetable to rot faster. I also keep it in the vegetable compartment in the fridge (if you have one its usually down the bottom) to avoid it from drying out, in a plastic bag or reuseable container with some paper towel to absorb any condensation that may occur. I usually store it for 5 -7 days. Depending on the conditions in your individual fridge, it may last longer. However, if it starts to show signs of discoloration or wilting, it will affect the taste, texture and final outcome of your dish. So, my preference is to use it while it is still fresh and crunchy!

Having said that, if you are going to use it relatively quickly after preparing it (within one to two, maybe three, days after) or are wanting to cut down prep time for easier cooking sessions during the week, you can wash it and then thoroughly dry it with paper towel. Or use a salad spinner to get rid of as much water as possible.

How to cook and serve broccoli

One of the main reasons I love broccoli is that its is SO versatile!

You can:

Steam it

Until it is a lovely, bright green color. Just try to avoid over cooking it! Nothing worse than soggy, dull green greens!

Photographer: Max Griss | Source: UnsplashPhotographer: Max Griss | Source: UnsplashPhotographer: Max Griss | Source: Unsplash

Boil it

Again, don’t over cook.

Blanch it

If you prefer, after blanching it, you can thoroughly dry it and freeze it in a freezer bag or container. It will keep up to 3 months. Then it can be used straight out of the freezer for ease.

Roast it

Preheat oven at 200 degrees. Combine with a little oil, salt and pepper. Toss to ensure broccoli is coated. Pop into an oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Finish with a squeeze of lemon if desired. It results in some slightly browned, crispy florets, which just adds more flavor and texture.

Air fry it

Follow the steps for roasting above, but there’s no need to preheat with an air fryer. Bonus!

Saute it

Heat a little oil in a pan, throw in some chopped garlic, lightly browning it (don’t burn it – watch it carefully as it can happen very quickly!) Then toss in the broccoli for a couple of minutes until a vibrant green color.

Microwave it

Like a fast version of steaming. Put broccoli in microwave safe bowl, put in 3 – 4 tablespoons of water. Cover with a plate. Microwave on high for 2.5 – 3 minutes. Depending on your microwave, you may need a bit longer. Continue to cook in 1 minute increments until it is cooked to your liking.

Or eat it raw

In a salad. Like in this recipe from one of my favourite sites: RecipeTin Eats – Broccoli Salad with Lighter Creamy Dressing

The options are (almost) endless!

What can I say, there is a reason why it makes regular appearances on my dinner table! And it might start becoming a regular on yours too. 😉

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