The Case Against Your Basic Steamed Vegetables

They deserve better than this.

March 04, 2020

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Photo by: jsteck / Getty

jsteck / Getty

I can’t stand steamed vegetables. Actually, I hate them. Every time I see the sad, colorless things served up in cafeterias, on dinner tables, at restaurants, wedding receptions and the like, a part of me just dies inside. Who thought this was ever a right way to cook broccoli, anyway?

You’re probably wondering where all this hatred stems from. After all, the dish seems harmless. It’s just plants cooked in one of the purest of ways – simply over a rolling boil of water. But I assure you: Vegetables deserve better than this.

Steaming destroys vegetables’ texture and flavor. Take the humble green bean, for example. When raw, the string is a healthy, vibrant green. But when thrown into the trenches of a steam basket for who knows how long, it comes out a pale, unsightly green-gray — a ghost of its former hue. Not to mention, the beans come out so mushy that they can barely be pierced by a fork, let alone make it into one’s mouth without the risk of sliding off the utensil at any moment. And more times than not, I have been served steamed vegetables with no seasoning at all. What is up with that?

I admit I could be biased. The concept of steaming vegetables is still foreign to me. I grew up eating ones that were often lightly sautéed in a fry pan with a touch of oil, then doused only with a thin layer of water – to cook them just enough – and seasoned minimally with smashed garlic cloves and salt. In the case of green beans, using this method results in an even more vibrant, and satisfyingly still-crisp – but fully cooked, of course – bean.

While cooking this way is a bit more effort, the payoff is well worth it. Plus, the whole process takes 10 minutes or less, and is just as quick and easy to clean up after as steaming.

So take your vegetables out of the steamer basket — and I promise you’ll be forever changed.

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