The most nutritious steamed broccoli is cooked as quickly as possible while submerged in as little water as necessary, according to Harvard Medical School. Thoughtful trimming, close monitoring and quick-cooling are the keys to successfully steaming broccoli while preventing mushiness or nutrient loss.

Broccoli steams more evenly if all the pieces are comparable in size.

There are three types of steamer baskets, but broccoli is steamed the same way regardless of the basket type you use.

Find a plate large enough to cover your skillet and trap the steam if your skillet does not have a matching lid. You must seal the steam in the pan or the broccoli will not cook.

  • Place the broccoli pieces in a skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Cover the skillet with its lid or a large plate. Heat the pan over medium-high heat.
  • Cook the broccoli for 4 minutes, monitoring it closely the entire time. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water any time you observe that the pan is dry or there is no more steam. Frozen broccoli is less likely to need extra water since residual frost on the florets will melt and provide extra water.
  • Taste test a floret to assess its doneness. Reassess the broccoli after 1 minute of additional cooking if the broccoli was not al dente the first time you tested it.

Microwaving broccoli does not cause increased nutrient loss compared to other steaming methods, according to Harvard Medical School. Steaming in the microwave may even help broccoli retain Vitamin C and other nutrients more effectively than other cooking methods.

  • Place broccoli pieces in a microwave-safe bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Cover the bowl with a tight-fitting lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap.
  • Microwave the broccoli on full power for 2 minutes. Uncover the broccoli and stir it to promote even cooking. Microwaves have a tendency to heat foods unevenly.
  • Cover the broccoli again. Microwave it for an additional 2 minutes. Taste test a floret to assess doneness.
  • Continue microwaving the broccoli in 1 minute increments until the broccoli is al dente. Stir the broccoli each time you taste test it.


Note the total time it took to microwave steam broccoli for future reference. Microwaves vary slightly, so you should start taste testing early the first time you use this cooking method. Once you know how long it takes to steam florets in your microwave, you can stop for taste tests less frequently in the future.

Mushy broccoli is usually the product of overcooking. Foods hold heat even after you remove them from heat sources, and residual heat can overcook them. Cooling the florets as soon as they are al dente stops the cooking process and maintains the level of doneness you prefer.

  • Pour broccoli into a bowl of ice water immediately after you determine it has the desired texture. Stir the florets until they are warm, but not cold. Drain the ice water and serve the broccoli.
  • Transfer steamed broccoli to a colander, then hold it under cool running water until the broccoli is warm enough to touch. Shake the colander gently to remove excess water.