Recipe Spotlight

How to Cook Brussels Sprouts That Even Haters Will Love

Skillet-roasting Brussels sprouts makes them so nutty and sweet, everyone at the table will love them. 

Published Oct. 20, 2022.

For people like me who love vegetables with a pungent, nose-tingling flavor, Brussels sprouts fit that bill perfectly. 

The buds’ tightly packed leaves contain an enzyme called myrosinase and sulfur-rich compounds called glucosinolates. 

When you cut (or chew) the leaves, the damaged cells release those two chemicals. They transform into compounds called isothiocyanates that give the brassica its distinctly bitter, mustardy taste.

Ordinary roasting deactivates some of the enzymes and tames that mustardy flavor somewhat–but usually not enough to please diehard Brussels sprouts haters.

That’s why those in the anti-sprouts camp need to try them skillet-roasted.

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How to Make Brussels Sprouts Taste Good (to Everyone)

Skillet-roasting fries the underside of the sprout and transforms it into something profoundly nutty and sweet. But it also keeps just a tiny bit of that mustardy bite for those of us who enjoy it.

  • Browning = Nuttiness During high heat cooking, amino acids and sugars in the sprouts undergo the Maillard reaction, which leads to the creation of hundreds of new toasty, malty, savory flavors. (The high heat also prevents the formation of those pungent isothiocyanates.)
  • Halving = More Surface Area Cutting a sprout in half dramatically increases its surface area, upping the potential for flavorful browning. 
  • Plenty of Oil = More Even Browning Often when browning, sprouts can develop the dreaded bull’s-eye: brown center, pale edges. This happens when there isn’t enough oil in the pan to make contact with the outer ring, which rises away from the pan slightly when the center puffs during cooking.

Cooks Illustrated Editor in Chief Dan Souza swears by skillet-roasting. Watch him explain why it works and demonstrate the technique.

How Science Can Transform Brussels Sprouts' Flavor

Try it for yourself! 

How to Skillet-Roast Brussels Sprouts

  1. Trim and halve your Brussels sprouts. Arrange sprouts in a single layer, cut sides down, in a nonstick skillet.
  2. Drizzle lots of olive oil (5 tablespoons per pound of sprouts) evenly over sprouts. Cover skillet, place over medium-high heat, and cook until sprouts are bright green and cut sides have started to brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Uncover and continue to cook until cut sides are deeply and evenly browned, 2 to 3 minutes longer, adjusting heat and moving sprouts as necessary to prevent overbrowning. 
  4. Off heat add seasonings and adjust to desired taste. 

Dress your perfectly browned sprouts however you like.

The best part? It only takes 20 minutes.

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