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3 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Cooking Brussels Sprouts, According to a Chef

And how to ensure they actually taste good.

When you were a kid, the mere thought of eating Brussels sprouts likely made you instantly crinkle your nose. But as they say, with age comes wisdom—or at least the understanding that Brussels sprouts are really tasty and packed with tons of vitamins and essential nutrients.

In fact, according to registered dietitian Kelly Jones, RD, the cruciferous vegetable is an excellent source of both vitamins C and K (critical for supporting your immunity, mood, and bone health), as well as a good source of other vitamins and minerals like folate and potassium. “Brussels sprouts offer support to the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract, while providing a variety of phytochemicals such as sulforaphane, which is researched for its antioxidant properties,” Jones adds. Really, what can’t these little veggies do?

Still, even then you may be on the fence about noshing on this green veggie, and chances are you’re likely not alone. But according to Adrian Lagoy—the chef de cuisine at Watertable, an award-winning restaurant and gastrobar at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach—the reason why you may not have grown to love Brussels sprouts (yet!) may be because you’re not cooking—and more importantly prepping—them correctly to unlock their full potential. Ahead, Chef Lagoy shares expert-driven tips to master how to cook Brussels sprouts once and for all.

 

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How to cook Brussels sprouts like a professional chef

According to Lagoy, learning how to cook Brussels sprouts is easy, and transforming them into a show-stopping side dish is even easier. Set yourself up for success in advance by finding the freshest ingredients possible. “When choosing Brussels sprouts at your market, look for bright green heads that are firm and tightly furled. Avoid Brussels sprouts that have tender spots, yellowing, or dried leaves,” Lagoy says. Their peak season is between August and March, the chef explains, so expect them to be particularly delicious during that time.

Now, it’s time to prep your goods. “When preparing Brussels sprouts for cooking, wash them under cold, running water to remove any dirt or debris. Then, with a sharp knife, trim off the bottom and cut each Brussels sprout in half, lengthwise, through the stem. You can also quarter them if they are fairly large,” Lagoy says.

Once they’re prepped and ready to go, there are several ways you can cook Brussels sprouts—sauté, fry, air fry, to name a few. But Lagoy says you simply can’t go wrong with roasting them in the oven. Start by preheating the oven to 425ºF. Then, place your prepped and halved Brussels sprouts into a mixing bowl and toss them with salt, pepper, and olive oil until evenly coated. Next, arrange them on a baking pan lined with parchment paper, cut-side down. Finally, roast your sprouts for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown along the edges.

Of course, you can stop right there and call it a day. (It’ll be delicious nonetheless.) But if you’re feeling jazzy and looking to inject a little more sophistication and flavor to your dish, Lagoy offers some of his favorite Brussels sprouts ingredient pairings below:

  • Add herbs: Basil, chives, parsley, dill, and thyme are just a few options that give Brussels sprouts some extra flavor and interest.  Lagoy loves to season his Brussels sprouts with thyme, garlic, shallot, and a splash of vermouth (a fortified wine made with an array of botanicals).
  • Pair it with some cheese: Think blue, cheddar, goat, Parmesan, Provolone, ricotta, and Swiss. You can either make a creamy cheese sauce or simply sprinkle some on top of warm Brussel sprouts and let it melt away. Then, take things up a notch by adding some nourishing spices, like nutmeg or paprika, to add another layer of flavor and complexity to a once-simple Brussels sprouts dish.
  • Garnish with nuts: Topping your dish with toasted almonds or hazelnuts will add a boost of protein and omega-3 fatty acids and rich, earthy flavor.

What are some of the most common Brussels sprouts cooking mistakes?

Brussels sprouts aren’t as intimidating as they may seem, but there are a few common mistakes Lagoy says to look out for when preparing a batch.

1. Not factoring the size of the sprouts

Like most things in life, Brussels sprouts can vary in size—and that can impact cooking time. “It’s important to factor in the size of your Brussels sprouts when cooking them—especially if you have varying sizes of sprouts altogether in one pan,” Lagoy says. “Chances are, the smaller ones will be done long before the larger ones.” As such, you’ll want to cut the Brussels sprouts in similar-sized shapes to ensure even cooking times.

2. Not using enough cooking oil

Using sufficient amounts of cooking oil (with a high smoking point) is one of the main ways to ensure foods get beautifully caramelized and unleash that sought-after rich, umami flavor (known among chefs as the Maillard reaction). That’s why Lagoy says using enough oil, especially when roasting sprouts at high heat, is beyond important. “To get that crispy, golden brown exterior, you want to be sure you are using enough oil to evenly coat the Brussels sprouts. Having a well-coated sprout in high heat ensures that they will caramelize and crisp instead of just getting soft in the oven.” The exact amount depends on how large a batch you roast, so portion with your heart (and don’t skimp!).

3. Not taking advantage of the versatility of this ingredient

This vegetable can be eaten and enjoyed in so many different ways that all offer something unique to the taste buds. So once you get the hang of basic roasting, don’t be afraid to branch out. “While Brussels sprouts are fantastic simply roasted with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, they are very versatile. You can dress them up in so many ways. Try tossing them in your favorite vinaigrette, or make a cheesy cream sauce,” Lagoy says. In truth, the options are endless. To get inspired, check out this Brussels sprouts recipe from Lagoy himself.

how to cook brussels sprouts watertable dish
Photo: Watertable

Crispy Brussels sprouts with pickled shallots recipe 

Yields 2 servings

Ingredients

For the Brussels sprouts:
1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved lengthwise
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly-ground pepper
Cooking oil of your choice, as needed
6 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped (optional)

For the pickled shallots:
1 pound shallots, peeled and thinly-sliced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp whole peppercorn
1 red Beet, peeled and quartered

For the bacon cream (optional):
4 1/2 ounces rendered bacon fat
3 1/2 ounces egg whites (pasteurized)
2 ounces rice vinegar
3 ounces ice cubes
3 tsp salt
12 ounces canola oil

For a plant-based harissa sauce (optional):
Harissa spice, to taste
Date syrup, to taste

1. First, make the pickled shallots: Place the sliced shallots in a glass or plastic bowl (not metal, which will react with the acids). Then, in a sauce pot, heat together the rest of the shallot ingredients and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes. Removed from heat and let liquid cool completely. Once cooled, pour over shallots, cover, and let sit overnight in the fridge.

2. Next, prepare the Brussels sprouts: Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Toss the Brussels sprouts in a mixing bowl and toss them with salt, pepper, and olive oil until evenly coated. Place them on a baking pan lined with parchment paper, cut-side down. Roast them for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown along the edges.

3. If using, prepare the bacon cream: In a food processor, blend all the ingredients together until smooth and emulsified. Transfer to a container or squeeze bottle. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to firm up before using.

4. To serve, transfer the roasted Brussels sprouts to a serving plate or container. Drizzle with bacon cream (optional) or date syrup and harissa spice, to taste (optional). Garnish with chopped cooked bacon (optional) and pickled shallots.

Up next: An anti-inflammatory Brussels sprouts salad: