Cooking Tips

Roasting Broccoli? A Pinch of Sugar Makes a Big Difference

We’d know. We’ve eaten a lot of broccoli.

Published Jan. 1, 2022.

Perfectly roasted broccoli is hard to beat. Unfortunately, its irregular shape makes it challenging for even browning. Overcook the broccoli, and it can carry a harsh, bitter aftertaste. But by following these two easy (and surprising?) steps, you’ll increase your odds of evenly cooked, evenly browned, bitterless broccoli each and every time.

For starters, sprinkle on some sugar.

That’s right. Sugar. Sprinkling your broccoli with a little sugar (½ teaspoon per large head) before roasting does two things: It helps promote browning and tames any bitterness. It sounds like half a teaspoon won’t do much, but trust us when we say it makes a big difference in flavor.

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Another key to roasted success is how you cut your broccoli: You should create as many flat surfaces as possible.  Think four to six wedges, depending on the size of your head. Cook's Illustrated's Deputy Food Editor Andrea Geary tested this while developing her Skillet-Roasted Broccoli recipe: “I cut a little over a pound of broccoli crowns into wedges to create flat sides for browning and then carefully arranged them so that as many as possible were flush with the pan surface.”

illustration showing how to cut broccoli into wedges

Follow these guidelines when cutting broccoli into wedges.

Your parents may have told you to eat your broccoli. We’re saying the same. Just make sure that you cut it into wedges first. And don’t forget the sugar!

Roasted Broccoli

Serves 4

  • 1 large head broccoli (about 1¾ pounds), stalks peeled and cut into 2- to 3-inch lengths and each length cut into ½-inch-thick pieces; each crown cut into 4 to 6 evenly thick wedges
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Toss all ingredients together in bowl. Spread broccoli on preheated sheet, flat sides down, and roast for 9 to 11 minutes. Serve.

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