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How to avoid undercooking or overcooking your veggies

Have you ever eaten a cooked carrot that tasted more like a soggy paper towel? Not good! Nothing can ruin a dish more quickly than overcooked or undercooked vegetables. On the other hand, properly cooked vegetables can take your dishes from so-so to better than ever. 

In this post, we’re covering the basics of cooking vegetables, from how to prepare vegetables for cooking to the difference between simmering vs. blanching vs. parboiling. The goal: help you make delicious vegetables full of flavor and color with your desired texture. Once you know how to cook veggies, you’ll carry this skill with you every day for more fulfilling and flavorful cooking experiences!

How to prepare vegetables for cooking in water

Cut Brussels Sprouts

It’s all in the prep. The more time you spend with us at Swich, the more you’ll see prep is key to most yummy dishes. Here’s a three-step process that will set you up for veggie success. 

1. Select a suitable sized pot

You want the vegetables to have enough room to move about the pot and not be crowded.

2. Bring cold water to a simmer and season with salt

Bring cold water up to a simmer and then season the water. Generally, you’ll add about 1 teaspoon of salt per liter or quart of water. Salt is vital; it helps season the vegetables and enhances natural flavor. Stir it to dissolve and then test it! It shouldn't be super salty or bland. 

3. Cut veggies uniformly

It’s best to cut vegetables in uniform sized pieces so they cook at the same rate.

How to know when vegetables are done cooking?

This can be tricky! There is no one-size-fits-all answer because every vegetable cooks at a different rate. So the best tip is to test them periodically and far in advance before you think they’re actually done! 

You’re looking for the vegetable to offer a little resistance to the tooth. But remember that the heat from within the vegetable will continue to cook it, so keep that in mind! Green veggies especially can go from perfect to overcooked in a matter of seconds. So move quickly! 

Here are some tips to check for “doneness”:  

  • With harder veggies, use a knife to check for the same resistance all the way through. They should also easily slide off the knife.

  • With potatoes, try to mash them with a fork. If they mash easily, they’re probably done!

Once you know they’re done, add the finishing touches! Lightly coat veggies with butter or oil, and then add salt and pepper. You can also add vinaigrettes, herbs, etc. We also recommend serving them as soon as possible because hot, cooked vegetables won’t hold up for a long time and get easily get mushy.

How to cook frozen vegetables

Frozen veggies often get a bad rep! Of course, fresh vegetables in season are ideal. But when buying veggies out of season, frozen vegetables are the way to go. Why? Out of season vegetables go through long shipping times and are often not ripe. On the other hand, frozen veggies are usually packaged at the peak of ripeness, so they’ll have more vitamins and minerals. 

The steps to cooking frozen veggies are very similar to fresh veggies. See the five-step process below:   

  • Bring a pot of water to simmer

  • Add salt and stir

  • Add veggies and gently simmer

  • Test for doneness until tender

  • Season as desired

Ultimately, frozen veggies can be just as flavorful as fresh produce when cooked properly! 

Blanched vs. parboiled vegetables

Cut vegetables ready to cook

These terms are often used interchangeably to describe “partially cooked vegetables.” But they aren’t the same!

For blanched vegetables, they’re cooked briefly past the raw stage. This helps bring out their flavor and color. It’s often the process used when making crudite. On the other hand, parboiled is when vegetables are cooked longer than blanched for a more “al dente” texture. 

Blanching and parboiling use the same process as simmering. You’ll bring cold water to a simmer, season with salt, and then add the vegetables. However, to avoid overcooking, you’ll take them out sooner and then put vegetables in an ice bath to cool them down. (Don’t leave them in for too long or they’ll get waterlogged!) 

Depending on the vegetables you can usually prepare them hours in advance or even days before use. Then, simply reheat them by simmering, steaming, or sauteing them. 

Looking for inspiration to eat more plants? See these five tips to make the transition with ease

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Tags: Cooking Tips Learn To Cook Plant Based Cooking
Leave a Comment

Staton M. ( 2yr ) – Appreciate your step by step explanation of cooking process with frozen vegetables, etc. 75 and still not a Fantastic cook! Need all the help I am able to receive!

Swich C. ( 2yr ) – We’re happy you’re here! You might also find this article on roasting veggies helpful. https://thebigswich.com/blog/how-to-roast-vegetables-without-oil-in-6-simple-steps

Alice C. ( 2yr ) – Thanks for these tips on different ways to fix veggies.

Swich C. ( 2yr ) – We’re happy you found it helpful!

Kat H. ( 2yr ) – Thanks for the help!

Swich C. ( 2yr ) – We’re happy to help!

Jacqueline V. ( 2yr ) – Thanks for the help on frozen vegetable.

Swich C. ( 2yr ) – You’re welcome! We’re happy you found it helpful!