Some times, you look at a vegetable and wonder how in heavens to cut it up for cooking. Take Brussels sprouts. The baby cabbages may look like green golf balls but really, they're tightly bound leaves surrounding a core.
(While we're at it, how do we spell Brussels sprouts? THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY Just remember Brussels sprouts, with an S at the end, like the Belgian city. THIS IS THE WRONG WAY Forget the incorrect spelling, Brussel sprouts, no S.)
Step by step, these photographs demonstrate the best ways to cut Brussels sprouts, depending on how they're going to be cooked. Each technique has something in common: breaking up the dense center core. That's because:
Brussels sprouts cook more evenly when more heat reaches into the core.
Brussels sprouts taste better (even to people who don't like them) when some of the naturally occurring chemicals are leached out when the cores are broken up.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
A cutting board
A sharp knife
Fresh Brussels sprouts
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|First! Please do wash the Brussels sprouts well, even if planning to cut off all the exterior bits. |
Why? Because if there's anything unsavory on the outside, then just putting it on the cutting board will contaminate the board; anything that gets cut on the board is at risk of contamination, too. In addition, the knife will cut through the outer areas so will transfer any contamination into the interior areas.
|In winter, grocery stores some times sell fresh Brussels sprouts still right on the stalk. Don't be intimidated by the other-worldly appearance. The sprouts are attached to the source of their life, so this is good!|
|It can take a few minutes but right in the store, break off truly fresh Brussels sprouts. Especially if cooking whole, choose sprouts that are roughly equal in size, more important than selecting the 'small sprouts'.|
|Mostly, however, we find fresh Brussels sprouts already off the stalk, so the stem cuts can be a few hours or a few days old and thus a little gnarly. |
Some times the outside leaves are bruised or yellowed, too.
|So just slice off the rough part of the stem, sometimes that's a thin slice, some times it's a little bit more. Toss it into the compost or the rubbish bin. |
If the outer leaves are unappetizing, slice them off too.
NOW, choices. What you do next depends on how you expect to cook the Brussels sprouts.
|Best for cooking whole Brussels sprouts |
Cut an X into the core with the tip of a knife. If the sprout is large, cut deep into the core although without cutting through the whole sprout.
Brussels Sprouts with Dijon
Brussels Sprouts with Apricot Glaze
Lemony Creamy Brussels Sprouts & Celery
|Best for creating flat edges that will caramelize during roasting or pan-sautéeing |
Cut the sprout in half, vertically, cutting right through the core. This means that during cooking, the heat needs to penetrate only half as far so the sprouts will cook evenly. But it retains the flat surface that's so important for creating the crusty edges that are ever so delectable. If you like, slice into the core a bit with the tip of a knife so that the heat can penetrate.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Fast Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
|Some times, a recipe will suggest cutting out the core with a deep V cut. This bypasses the core entirely and so the sprouts will cook still more quickly. If the sprouts will be tossed in a sauce, you might want to twist the sprouts to open up the leaves a bit so that the sauce has more surface area to coat. |
But cutting out the core means throwing away a lot of the sprout so is quite wasteful. Life is full of choices!
|Instead of cutting out the cores, cut the halves in half again (for quarters) or into thirds (for sixths). These will cook still more quickly (and retain some flat edges) but won't be as wasteful as removing the cores. |
Creamy Brussels Sprouts Gratin
Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta & Garlic
Braised Brussels Sprouts
|Best for cooking Brussels sprouts quickly and lightly|
To cook Brussels sprouts the most quickly, a quick sauté, say, you want the smallest pieces. You might start with a whole sprout and cut it crosswise into thin rounds -- although this is probably the least effective way to cut a Brussels sprouts for it concentrates the cores into just a few slices, rather than spreading them around.
|Instead, cut the sprouts in half lengthwise, then place a half facedown on the cutting board and cut it crosswise in thin strips. |
Bodacious Brussels Sprouts
Best for cooking just the leaves of the Brussels sprouts
First, when trimming the stem off, you might want to cut deeper of more than a little bit, as much as a third can work. Then cut the Brussels sprouts in half and then cut out the cores with a deep V cut. (Yes, I know I warned against that earlier. This is different!)
|With your hands, twist off the outer layers of leaves, then break apart the centers. |
Lemony Leaves of Love
~ more Brussels sprouts recipes ~