Erica is a writer, editor, wife, and mom. She has always found employment with an English degree and she excels at nurturing children and animals but struggles to keep houseplants alive. Erica currently writes at

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How to Steam and Boil Vegetables

As the farmer’s markets begin to open this spring, and our vegetable gardens begin to produce through the summer, it becomes important to know how to cook fresh vegetables the correct way.  There is almost nothing worse than seeing a limp, avocado-green broccoli floret with its vitamins thrown down the drain with the leftover boiling water.

When cooked properly, steamed vegetables are wonderful on their own or tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Even my 2-year-old thinks so!

The following vegetable cooking directions are from my all-time favorite, go-to cookbook, The Best Recipe.

For all steamed recipes, fit a steamer basket onto a saucepan and fill with water to below the steamer basket bottom.  Heat the water to boiling, then add the vegetables and cover.


Steamed: Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus.  Add to basket, cover, and steam for 3-4 minutes (until asparagus spears bend slightly and the tough ends give when squeezed).  My addition:  Immediately immerse asparagus in cold water to stop the cooking process.

Variation:  Steamed Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette


Steamed: Add to basket, cover and steam until just tender, 4.5-5 minutes.

Variation: Steamed Broccoli with Orange-Ginger Dressing and Walnuts


Steamed: Add to basket, cover and steam until tender but still offers resistance to the tooth when sampled, 7-8 minutes.

Variation: Steamed Cauliflower with Curry-Basil Vinaigrette


Boiled: Bring 4 quarts of water (and 4 tsp. sugar, if using), to boil. Add corn; return to boil and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes.

Suggested eating from a Hoosier: Stick corn holders in each end, slather the ear in butter and dig in!

Green Beans

Boiled:  Bring 2.5 quarts of water to boil in a large saucepan.  Add beans and 1 tsp. salt and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain.

Variation: Green Beans with Tomato, Basil, and Goat Cheese

Blanched Sugar Snap Peas or Snow Peas

Bring 6 cups of water to boil.  Add 1 tsp. salt and 4 cups (about 1 lb.) of peas, tips snapped off and strings pulled if necessary.  Cook until crisp-tender, 1.5-2 minutes for sugar snap peas or about 2.5 minutes for snow peas.  Drain peas, shock in ice water, drain again and pat dry.

Variation: Peas with Hazelnut Butter and Sage and Peas with Lemon, Garlic, and Basil

Baby Food

If you have a baby who’s ready for soft solids, you can puree any of these steamed or boiled vegetables with a little breast milk or formula to create your own baby food.  Pour prepared baby food into ice cube trays, freeze, and then store in zip-lock bags for easy and nutritious baby food!




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Comments (4)

  1. Carina 04/16/2012 at 9:17 pm

    I’ve been roasting 7 metric tons of cauliflower lately. I might have a problem.

  2. Amy Allen Johnson 04/16/2012 at 1:48 pm

    Bring on summer veggies! yum!

  3. Erin Oltmanns 04/16/2012 at 9:39 am

    Thank you! I’m getting tired of microwave peas. 🙂

  4. Shannon Breuner Nelson 04/16/2012 at 1:12 am

    This is great! I HATE oversteaming veggies!