Methods for cooking vegetables are important, because it's a pretty well-known fact: vegetables are good for you. They're full of vitamins, nutrients, and lots of other stuff our body needs to function properly. But a lot of people see eating vegetables as a chore – an unfortunate but necessary part of the meal.
Well, it doesn't have to be that way. Vegetables can actually be really delicious.
In my family, we always ate lots of vegetables and salads, and I never understood why people didn't like them. Then I started going out more, and it all became very clear: cooking vegetables is a skill that not everyone has learned.
The thing is, cooking vegetables isn't hard. But different vegetables need to be treated differently. Some are better sautéed, other are great roasted, and some are best raw. And it's just something you have to know to be able to get the most out of your vegetables.
Vegetable Cooking Methods
There are lots of different ways of cooking vegetables. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and each gives the vegetables a particular texture and flavor. Some methods let you use spices, others let you keep the veggies crisper. And some methods are just better suited to certain vegetables.
So which method do you pick? In this section, I'll go over the different methods for cooking vegetables, and some of their pros and cons.
Boiling is one of the easiest ways to prepare vegetables. All you need is a cooking pot, some water, some vegetables, and maybe a bit of salt. It's quick and convenient!
But boiling vegetables causes them to lose some of their nutritional value. The boiling water leeches some of the vitamins and nutrients, and even some of the flavour, right out of the veggies. The best way to minimize that nutrient loss is to make sure that they spend as little time as possible in the boiling water. And just how you do that depends on what kind of vegetable you're boiling.
To learn how to get the most out of your vegetables, check out this article on boiling vegetables for all the details.
Steaming is a great method for cooking vegetables. It cooks the vegetables and softens them up, but because they're not immersed in water, they don't lose as many nutrients. It also preserves more of the flavour than boiling does.
And like boiling, steaming is super convenient. Even though you can get a special cooking appliance, a steamer, you really don't need one. If you have a pot, some water, and a steaming basket, then you're all set. Or if you don't have a steaming basket, even a colander can do the trick. There's even a way to steam vegetables using just a pot and a bit of water. What could be easier?
Sautéing vegetables, or stir-frying them, means cooking them over fairly high heat, and stirring them often. The high heat helps them cook quickly, which minimises nutrient loss. And stirring them keeps them from burning!
Sautéing is a really tasty way to cook vegetables. They keep a lot more flavour than boiling or even steaming, so that you taste how delicious the veggie really is. And it also lends itself really well to seasoning the vegetables. A little bit of oil and spices or a tasty marinade can really make your vegetables go from good to outstanding.
Unlike some of the other methods for cooking vegetables, though, you really have to keep an eye on sautéing vegetables. They can burn pretty quickly!
I like to roast vegetables in the autumn or winter, when having the oven on warms up the kitchen in a wonderful way, and the smell of delicious food spreads through the house. And a lot of autumn vegetables like squashes taste so great when they're roasted.
One of the great things about roasting vegetables is that even though it takes a while to cook, the preparation time is pretty much non-existent – just toss the veggies with a bit of oil and herbs, put them in a baking dish, and let them roast. It's especially nice when the rest of your meal takes a little more attention, so that you can work on it in peace.
Roasting gives the vegetables a unique flavour that you don't get by boiling or steaming. Cooking them slowly in the oven helps them caramelise a little bit, bringing out their natural sweetness and enhancing their flavour. And it's so easy to add a few delicious herbs and spices. Yum!
Some vegetables are just better on the grill or BBQ. BBQing gives that special cooked outdoors, perfectly browned taste that no other cooking method can match. And you can easily marinate the vegetables, or add some herbs or a sauce to them before cooking to give them some extra flavour.
Courgette, with just a bit of oil, garlic, salt and pepper is one of my favorite vegetables to BBQ grill.
BBQ grilling isn't quite as convenient as some of the other cooking methods though. For one thing, you need a BBQ. And that also means it's usually more of a warm weather kind of meal. But you also have to keep a close eye on the vegetables while they're cooking. They'll usually need to be flipped, and checked to be sure they're not burning. Not as convenient, but well worth the effort!
Braising is a cross between steaming and boiling. Instead of cooking the vegetables by completely immersing them in boiling water, you only add enough water to cover about half the vegetables.
Like steaming, it cooks the vegetables a bit more gently than boiling. But it's usually a bit quicker than just steaming, since part of the vegetables are in the water. And using just a bit of water means that you don't lose as many nutrients or flavour, so you get extra delicious vegetables.
And it's so easy. Vegetables and a pot filled with a bit of water is all you need for a delicious vegetable side dish! You can even use stock or wine for some extra flavour.
Preparing Specific Vegetables
As shown in the previous section, there are lots of different ways of cooking vegetables. Some work for almost any vegetable, and other are better for some vegetables than others. And in most cases, the vegetable you use is going to affect things like the cooking time or the amount of water to use.