Monday, January 18, 2010

How To: Select, Clean, and Cook Fresh Brussels Sprouts

The Brussels sprout gets a bad rap. Even more than broccoli, Brussels sprouts are the dreaded veggie that children everywhere are purported to fear. And though I don't ever remember tasting them until just a few years ago, I think there are some unfair assumptions that I harbored without ever having tried them. One of those being that this veggie is a particularly bitter one—which is probably true if you've purchased them in a bag in the freezer aisle. Another is that they have a strong, even offensive taste. I supposed this is also true for undeveloped taste buds, which I'm sure is the reason most kids avoid them. They are also particularly vulnerable to the abuse that results when paired with the wrong seasonings or overcooked... But let's start with a clean slate. Just think of them like tiny little cabbages—and follow my advice.

Buying and Selecting: Brussels sprouts are a cold season vegetable, so you'll find them in stores late fall or early winter. Their flavor actually improves with frost and the vegetable gets sweeter. So if you see them in the summer, leave them be.

If possible, buy Brussels sprouts on the stalk. You'll find that they're better tasting, sturdier, and often appear healthier than the loose ones. In addition, buying them on the stalk is significantly cheaper, with some stalks holding several pounds of Brussels sprouts. When buying them loose, look for firm green sprouts—you don't want yellow, spotted, or loose leaves.

Prep Steps (from stalk to finish)

1. Pulling backward, remove each of the spouts—they should just snap off in your hand with a little pressure. Remove any leaves that may be yellow or spotted.

2. Put the Brussels sprouts in a bowl filled with warm water and let them soak for about 10 minutes. This will flush out the dirt and any tiny critters than may be lurking in the folds. I highly recommend not skipping this step.

3. Drain and rinse

4. This next step is optional, considering the debate surrounding whether it actually aids in the cooking process. Personally, I often do it because that's how I learned to prepare them and I'm a creature of habit.

Take a pairing knife and cut a small X at the top of each Brussels sprout. This will (supposedly) help to ensure a more even and slightly faster cooking time. Does it really make a difference? I honestly couldn't say and it's not keeping me up at night.

5. Steam (about 8 minutes) or boil (about 6 minutes) the veggies until tender. I prefer steaming to help preserve all the healthy stuff.*

6. Now you can cut off the stem or base of the cooked sprout, and then slice them in half (or in slices, depending on your preference).

Now what to do with them...

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts w/Toasted Walnuts
inspired by Just A Taste, Ithaca NY

about 1 pound of fresh Brussels sprouts
6 cloves of garlic, minced
½ Tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup walnut pieces
½ Tbsp butter
2 oz grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
salt and black pepper to taste

1. Prepare the Brussels sprouts (as directed above) by cooking until tender and halving. Be careful not to overcook, as this tends to bring out stronger, more unpleasant flavors.

2. In a large frying pan or wok, add the olive oil and cook the garlic for 1-2 minutes, add the walnuts and cook for another minute.

3. Add the Brussels sprouts and butter to the pan and sauté until lightly brown, about five minutes.

4. Either sprinkle the vegetables with grated cheese and serve immediately, or sprinkle with cheese and broil until cheese is melted.

*Eat your Brussels sprouts, they're good for you. They’ve got lots of vitamin C and K, as well as a respectable amount of vitamin A and protein.


  1. Wonderful pictures and great tips. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. Thanks for the simple advice. It's exactly what I needed!

  3. "They’ve got lots of vitamin C and K, as well as a respectable amount of vitamin A and protein."

    Hi, I'm just wondering about the vitamin k, is it also related to vitamin K2?

  4. From Wikipedia:

    A simplified summary- Vitamin K1 is found in the vegetables and is used in the body to produce K2 for body use.

    Vitamin K1, also known as phylloquinone, phytomenadione, or phytonadione, is synthesized by plants, and is found in highest amounts in green leafy vegetables because it is directly involved in photosynthesis. It may be thought of as the "plant form" of vitamin K. It is active in animals since animals can easily convert it to the form animals use in their enzymic reactions (vitamin K2).

  5. What a great tip for brussel sprouts at 56 can't get enough hated them when young this is perfect pittsburgh weather for them in october good eating