You have probably seen packets of frozen broccoli at the grocery store and may have even bought some. So you will know that broccoli freezes well and if you have bought too much, you can freeze what is leftover. Perhaps there’s a sale on broccoli so why not buy it in bulk to use at a later date. Broccoli often doesn’t last long even in the fridge and often starts to go yellow so, by freezing, you will extend its shelf life considerably. In this article, we will take a look at how to prepare broccoli for freezing, how to freeze it, and how to defrost and reheat it.
There are a few different ways to freeze broccoli (see also Can You Freeze Cauliflower) and we will tell you all about them. Each one has benefits and it is really up to you to choose the way you prefer. First, however, we will tell you how to prepare the broccoli for freezing.
Preparing Broccoli for Freezing
Although there are different methods of freezing broccoli, the way you prepare it is the same. It doesn’t sound nice but there might be small worms in your broccoli and you will want to get rid of them before you do anything else. To do this, put a teaspoon of salt in a large bowl of cold water. Put in the broccoli and leave it for 30 minutes. This will kill off the worms. Be sure to rinse the broccoli under cold water to make sure that all the worms have been gotten rid of.
The next step is to cut the broccoli into florets, the smaller the better. You can eat the stalks so chop them up as well if you want.
Wash the broccoli again to make sure that there is no dirt left on the florets. You really don’t want to be eating grit when you finally defrost and reheat your broccoli.
You now have to choose how you want to freeze the broccoli. You can freeze it raw which will mean blanching it, or you can cook or roast it prior to freezing. It is easier to cook it before freezing as blanching takes some time and then you have to cook the broccoli when it is defrosted. However, it is a good method if you’re not sure how you want to use the broccoli. If it is raw, you can choose to cook it just as a side dish or you can cook it until it is just before soft and then add it to a dish. However, if you take cooked broccoli out of the freezer, you can add it directly to a dish as it only needs to be reheated.
How to Freeze Blanched Broccoli
The whole point of blanching is to keep the taste and texture of the vegetable after it has been defrosted. You don’t have to do this, but it does work. If you decide not to, your vegetables will still be edible, but they might not taste as good as if they were blanched. It’s also a good idea to flash freeze the broccoli before putting it in freezer bags or containers as this stops the florets from sticking together. This is advantageous if you plan to just take out a few florets at a time for defrosting. Freezing in this way is great if you want to keep the broccoli in the freezer for a long time.
Step by Step Guide to Blanching Broccoli
- Put a pot of water on the stove and heat it to boiling point. Then put the broccoli in the pot and boil for two to three minutes. The time will depend on the size of your florets.
- Put iced water in a large bowl.
- Strain the hot water from the pot and plunge the broccoli into the iced water. Make sure that the water covers the broccoli so that it all cools down.
- Leave the broccoli in the iced water for around 10 minutes.
- Strain the water.
Step by Step Guide to Freezing Blanched Broccoli
- The first step is to dry the broccoli florets. If you don’t, the broccoli will freeze with extra moisture and when defrosted, this will penetrate the vegetables and make them mushy. Use either a dishcloth or paper towels. A good trick is to leave the broccoli on the dishcloth or paper towels for about half an hour. This helps the excess water to evaporate and you should be left with dry broccoli. You can also use a paper towel to pat the broccoli at the end to make sure that you haven’t missed any wet spots.
- The next step is flash freezing. You don’t have to do this, but it does help to stop the florets from sticking together. This is useful if you only want to use a few florets at a time. To do this, get a baking tray and line it with parchment paper. Then put the florets and stems if you are using them, on the tray and make sure that they are not touching. If you don’t do this, there is a high chance that the pieces of vegetables will stick together. Then put the baking sheet in the freezer and leave for about an hour.
- Take the baking sheet out of the freezer and transfer the broccoli to a freezer bag or container. If you use a bag, make sure that you squeeze out all the air otherwise freezer burn may occur. While this is not dangerous for your health, it can alter the taste and texture of the broccoli, making it unappealing.
- Put a label on the bag with the date the broccoli was frozen. This is important as it is all too easy to forget when you put it in the freezer, especially if you freeze a lot of items. You don’t want your broccoli to languish in some dark corner of the freezer losing its taste and texture. Once you’ve done this, put the bag in the freezer and leave it until you’re ready to use it.
How to Freeze Cooked, Steamed, or Roasted Broccoli
If you have time on your hands why not cook the broccoli before freezing. There are different ways of getting the broccoli ready for freezing and we will take a look at each of them here. The advantage of this is that all you will have to do after you have defrosted it is to warm it up. Put the florets in a pan or the microwave or you can add them to a casserole near the end of cooking time.
Here we’ll tell you about the options you can use.
- Cook the broccoli. Boil up a pan of water with a pinch of salt. Then simmer the broccoli florets for between 10 and 15 minutes. Don’t let them soften completely as you will be heating them up when defrosted. This will give them time to cook completely.
- Steam the broccoli. Boil a pot of water and then put a steamer basket in the pot. Put the florets in the pot and put a lid on the pot. Steam for between 20 and 25 minutes. Keep checking that the broccoli isn’t overcooking. You don’t want it to be completely soft.
- Roast the broccoli. This is probably the best way to prepare broccoli for freezing as it is very flavorsome. The first step is to preheat the oven to 425F. Then cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put the broccoli florets onto this and spray them with olive oil. You can also make a mixture of equal amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar (see also Freezing Vinegar). You won’t need more than a tablespoon of each. Once the oven has heated up, put the baking tray inside and cook for between 30 and 35 minutes. Check the florets a little before this time to ensure that they have roasted enough.
Whichever method you use, you still need to cool and dry the broccoli before freezing it. Don’t put warm broccoli into the freezer as this can bring up the temperature and other food may start defrosting. It’s not good to defrost and refreeze in most cases as it can lead to bacteria forming on the food.
Don’t leave the broccoli at room temperature for more than two hours as this can also encourage the growth of bacteria which can lead to food poisoning.
As with blanched broccoli, make sure that all the moisture has been removed from the florets. They are then ready to freeze.
Put the broccoli florets into a bag or container and label them. Defrosting is easier if you put them in several small bags. Then you will have just what you need for a meal.
One way of defrosting broccoli is to put it in the fridge. However, you can also just add it to soup, stew, or casserole, just put it in the pot. Remember that if you are using blanched broccoli it will take longer to cook than if you are using cooked broccoli.
Tips for Freezing Broccoli
If you cut broccoli florets very small, they can be messy. Cut them halfway up the stem instead. The stem is edible as well as the florets.
Broccoli lasts for around 10 months in the freezer which is a good shelf life.