When it comes to Brussels sprouts, most people either love them or hate them. If you fall into the latter camp, it’s possible that your Brussels sprouts just haven’t been very well cooked. Traditionally, Brussels sprouts were prepared by boiling, and they were often left on the heat for far too long, resulting in a soggy green mess with a bitter taste and sulfurous odor.
Thankfully, people seem to have stepped up their Brussels game in recent years, with much shorter boiling times that result in a tender, al dente veggie that’s a pleasure to eat. Other ways of cooking the humble sprout have also become popular, including sautéing, steaming and, perhaps, most notably, roasting.
How to roast the perfect Brussels sprouts
Roasted Brussels sprouts are the antithesis of the soggy, smelly sprouts of the past, with slightly crispy, caramelised outer leaves adding texture and a touch of sweetness that balances perfectly with that bitter, vegetal sprout flavor. But as with their boiled brethren, there is still a right way and a wrong way to do things, and to make your roasted sprouts the very best they can be, there are a few tips and tricks you need to follow.
Choose the right sprouts
When it comes to choosing sprouts, size can affect their flavor, with smaller sprouts having a slightly sweeter taste, and larger ones having a more pronounced bitterness. You can choose whichever you prefer, but it is important to make sure all your sprouts are roughly the same size, so that they cook evenly. You should also opt for healthy, bright green sprouts with intact outer leaves.
Choose the right oil
In truth, most oils are fine for roasting sprouts, but there are some you should avoid. Because sprouts need to be roasted at a relatively high temperature there can be a risk of burning the oil, giving the sprouts an unpleasant, acrid flavor. For this reason, you should avoid using oils with lower smoke points, such as extra-virgin olive oil, butter or walnut oil.
Get your preparation right
As with any sprout dish, you should cut away the tough base part of the sprout and remove any discolored outer leaves. For roasted sprouts, you should then slice each sprout in half, and place it flat-side-down on your baking sheet. This flat surface will caramelize nicely against the hot metal of the baking sheet, adding plenty of delicious, roasty flavor to your sprouts. Any clean leaves that fall away from the sprouts should also be added to the tray, as these will provide some extra-crispy texture when roasted.
Leave plenty of space
Make sure there are gaps between each of your sprouts. If they are too close together, they will produce a lot of steam, and the result will be soft and soggy, rather than crispy and tender. Use two baking sheets if you have lots of sprouts.
Keep it simple
There are plenty of delicious sauces and dressings you can use to enhance the flavor of your Brussels sprouts, but these are best added afterwards, as they can burn in the oven, or disguise the color of the sprouts so you can’t tell when they’re done. For best results, cook the sprouts with oil and a little salt only. You can always add some tempting extras later.
Turn up the heat
For deliciously crispy, golden sprouts that are still tender in the middle, you need a hot oven. The ideal range is between 400°F to 425°F, and remember to preheat the oven while you do your prep.
Leave them alone
Once the sprouts are in the oven, there is no need to touch them again until they’re cooked. Unlike most veggies, they don’t need turning, as placing them cut-side-down traps air in between the leaves, steaming them to tender perfection from the inside while the outsides go golden and crispy.
Don’t be afraid of a little color
It can be tempting to remove your sprouts from the oven as soon as you start to see them go brown. After all, you don’t want your carefully-prepared veggies burning to a crisp. But in fact, the tastiest sprouts are those that look slightly burnt, as caramelization adds more flavor, and an irresistibly crispy texture. Leave them in for just a little bit longer than you think you should - they will take at least 17 minutes to cook properly, and can take up to 25 mintutes, depending on their size and density.