Blanching vegetables is a quick and easy way to preserve their fresh flavors while cooking them just enough to develop a crisp-tender texture. Though the technique is simple—briefly plunge vegetables into boiling water, then cool them in ice water to stop the cooking—it’s important to get the timing right. Boil too long and they turn mushy. Chill too long and they become waterlogged.
Blanched vegetables are great in salads, pastas and sandwiches. They also store well up to three days—wrapped in a kitchen towel and sealed in a plastic bag—for later use in stir-fries and sautés. Vegetables intended for later cooking should be blanched slightly less than those for immediate use.
To determine the best times for each, we blanched common vegetables for varying times (starting the clock as soon as they went in) and tasted them side-by-side. We found most were perfectly blanched far more quickly than many suggested times we consulted.
When blanching, cut large, firm vegetables such as broccoli into florets. More tender produce, such as green beans, can be blanched whole. Hearty greens such as kale and chard should be stemmed. After chilling, always drain blanched vegetables on kitchen towels to remove excess water.
Be sure to blanch in ample water—we prefer 4 quarts seasoned with 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt. For best flavor, we also salt the chilling water—3 quarts cold water mixed with 2 tablespoons kosher salt and 1 quart ice. A mesh spider or long-handled tongs are best for transferring vegetables to the ice bath.