How to Cook Cabbage Perfectly

Sunday 24 September 2017

I was asked the other day how to cook cabbage.   Cabbage is one of those vegetables that we just love in this house, but it is a very easily maligned vegetable, mostly because a lot of people cook it rather horribly.   There is nothing more appealing than a plate of ather insipid and stinky overcooked  boiled cabbage.  Blah.  Blah. Blah.  Fresh cabbage, lightly cooked, is full of goodness, packed with vitamins, minerals and flavour and it’s not expensive or boring in the least.

Cabbage should always be eaten as fresh as possible – it loses nutrients if stored for too long. An unwrapped fresh cabbage should look bright and crisp, with its outer leaves intact (often if it’s had its outer leaves removed, it was because they were limp, which is not a good sign). The centre should feel firm and the leaves should squeak as you pull them apart.  You will want to get rid of any discoloured or wimply outer leaves and then cut the cabbage into quarters.   Remove and discard the core and then cut the cabbage crosswise into thin strips, about 1/3 inch in width, with a sharp knife.  The secret to cooking cabbage is to cook it briefly in rapidly boiling water. I like to  pack it down quite tightly into a saucepan, sprinkle with some fine sea salt.  I then place the pan over a high heat, adding boiling water from the kettle.  This comes back to the boil almost instantly.  I then time it for 3 to 5 minutes.  It is done when you can bite a piece and is just yields, much like cooking pasta.  Drain it immediately in a large colander,  tossing and pressing it lightly to extract as much water as possible from it.  I use a bread and butter plate for this.  I cut down into the cabbage with the edge of the plate which chops it lightly.  You can then dress it with a bit of butter, some salt and pepper and serve it while it is nice and hot.  Delicious!

I think the old school method of cooking most vegetables was to cook them pretty much to death for some reason.  I have some very old cookbooks which recommend cooking carrots for 45 minutes, for instance.  Absolutely all of the nutritional value would pretty much be boiled out by that time I would think!  I wouldn't want to eat a carrot which had been boiled for that long.  Neither would  I want them rock hard.  It is the same with most vegetables.  There is a very fine line between them being overdone or underdone, but  with a bit of practice anyone can get it right.  You can find an excellent chart with cooking times here.


  1. I am just about to harvest my very first cabbages. I will be making sauerkraut with most of them as it is easier for me to digest. I will also use your method above as the kids love cabbage. I remember once lightly frying the strips in a little soy and they loved that too. We visit a lady in a nursing home and they are used to having their veggies over cooked so that's how the chef cooks for them. The beans don't even look green anymore.

    1. Over cooked vegetables are so unpalatable Kylie. I hope that when I get old I don't like mine like that! I adore sauerkraut. My sister makes her own. I need to get with the program and make some too. We also love it fried. Its soooo good! I always put some in my fried rice as well! xo


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