The Common Mistake That Can Ruin Boiled Cabbage

Cabbage, with its humble and unassuming appearance, often finds its way into our kitchens. It's a versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed in various varieties, from crunchy blue cheese-spiked coleslaw to smoky fried cabbage with bacon. However, there is an often-overlooked way to prepare cabbage: boiling. Although seemingly an easy way to cook the vegetable, many people are put off by boiled cabbage. From its mushy texture to its pungent smell, boiled cabbage has left many eaters to swear off cabbage altogether.

However, boiled cabbage does not need to be tragic. In fact, the most common cause of unappetizing boiled cabbage is overcooking. Overcook the hearty leaves, and you'll end up with limp, stinky mush that no one wants to eat. By paying close attention to cooking time, and with the addition of some seasoning, you can turn boiled cabbage into a quick and delicious side dish — you can even make it the star of the show. When cooked correctly, boiled cabbage is tender but still crisp, with its natural sweetness drawn out to pair with the stronger flavors of the rest of your meal.

Boiling cabbage the right way

To make the perfect boiled cabbage, you need fresh cabbage, a large pot, water, and salt. Choose a cabbage with tightly bound leaves with little exterior discoloration. Remove the damaged and wilted leaves on the outside. Depending on your preference and the size of the cabbage, you can cut them into bite-sized pieces or wedges. Wash the cut cabbage thoroughly under cold running water to remove dirt and insects.

Fill the large pot with enough water to cover all the cabbage. Put it on high heat and season the water with a generous amount of salt. Alternatively, you can use chicken bouillon cube or powder. When the water comes to a roiling boil, place the cabbage in the water and set the timer. For pieces of cabbage, you only need five minutes to cook them to tender yet crisp perfection. For wedges, start testing them at the eight-minute mark, but they should not take longer than 10 minutes to cook through. Drain into a colander and place the cabbage in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and preserve its vibrant color. Once cooled, drain again to remove all excess moisture. To serve as a side dish, you can dress the cabbage with a warm bacon vinaigrette or melted butter and parmesan cheese.

More ways to enjoy cabbage

Mastering the timing to boil cabbage can open the door to a whole range of possibilities. For example, you can boil whole cabbage leaves to make them just tender enough to create delicious kimchi-stuffed cabbage rolls. Stuff the boiled cabbage leaves with a mixture of ground meat, onion, garlic, and kimchi, and bake them in a tomato sauce for a meal that can be made in large batches, perfect for family gatherings.

Boiled cabbage is also a fantastic way to get the leafy green just tender enough to use in a stir-fry. Simply boil shredded cabbage to soften it, drain, and place it in an ice bath to cool before removing excess moisture with a colander or salad spinner. In a wok, stir-fry minced garlic, shallots, and finely shredded pork or beef. Add the cabbage back in and stir-fry on a very high heat. Season with Chinese rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, and freshly sliced hot chilis for a delicious side. Add a protein, like sliced tofu or ground pork, for a main course that's light but filling.