Releasing the sweetness and softening the texture of okra require very little fuss and only a short session on the stove. The most common concern is keeping the okra tender without their structure breaking down. Here are a few simple tips.
The secret to tender boiled okra with a little snap is to drop the pods into a pot of boiling water and cook on high heat for a short time. For shorter, younger pods, cook 3 to 4 minutes, covered, at a rolling boil. For longer, more mature pods, up to 8 minutes might be required.
The okra are done when a fork easily penetrates the flesh just below the stalk. Any longer and the okra could overcook and turn slimy. Remove the pot from the heat, drain the okra and toss in butter and salt before serving.
Avoiding Slimy Okra
Okra produces mucilage, a liquid with a consistency similar to the sticky film that oozes from a cut aloe vera plant. While this viscous "slime" is a boon to okra soups and gumbo, it's not the best in boiled okra.
Younger, smaller pods up to four inches long produce less mucilage. Tossing the raw okra in salt and rinsing in a bowl of cold water with a little lemon juice helps, too. While boiling, avoid overcrowding the pot, since the steam encourages the okra to ooze.
To make crisp okra, start with dry, whole pods (the more you cut okra, the more slime it produces). Add a teaspoon of citrus juice to the boiling water before tossing in the okra.