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How To Stop Broccoli From Smelling While Cooking

Cooking broccoli can result in a distinctive odor you may wish to avoid, but how do you stop broccoli from smelling during the cooking process? There are a few tips and tricks you can try, but it helps to understand why the smell happens in the first place.

Basically, when you cook certain vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli to a certain point, they don’t release as much sulfur or the smell of sulfur as they will when the vegetables start to overcook. That is why some people pre-soak cabbage and sometimes even broccoli.

But pre-soaking does run the risk of diminishing some of the flavor, it’s basically a question of how unpleasant you find the smell of cooking broccoli if it does start to reach an overcooked state. Pre-soaking isn’t your only option, fortunately.

Stop Broccoli Smells

How to Stop Broccoli From Smelling While Cooking

Time is the first key to reducing the smell of cooking broccoli. While it’s tempting to think only of cooking time, the freshness of your raw ingredients will definitely matter. Broccoli can stink when cooking if it isn’t as fresh as it should be, so getting the freshest ingredients possible is the first step.

Overcooking: Avoid, Avoid, Avoid

Then there’s that overcooking issue. When broccoli is overcooked, it begins to smell like sulfur. How do you tell if you are getting close to the end of the cooking process here?

Broccoli is essentially ready when you can pierce it with a fork. The cooking time may vary with the size of the florets but it does not take very long at all. You may find that it only takes two to three minutes to boil. Some sources say steaming takes about as long while others report it may take as long as five minutes to steam broccoli to the right level of “done”.

Many believe that steaming is the superior prep method as boiling can potentially reduce the levels of certain nutrients in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Keep this in mind if you are concerned about the quality of the nutrients in your cooking.

Absorbing Odors

It’s not possible to steam or otherwise cook broccoli to perfection each and every time, which is why some add absorbing agents like bread or rice into the mix. You can use chunks of bread or rice in a boiling pot with your broccoli to absorb some of the odor.

Masking Odors

Method 1: Pour undiluted white vinegar to a small bowl and set it nearby while you are cooking the broccoli. The white vinegar actually helps to neutralize the broccoli smell from the air as it cooks. You can also add a diluted solution of white vinegar to a spray bottle.

Method 2: Add lime juice, lemon juice, or red wine vinegar to a boiling pot or steamer. You can also add bay leaf extract to the water of a steamer or boiling pot.

Other Options To Stop Broccoli From Smelling While Cooking

Why does broccoli stink when you cook it? Aside from the technical issues related to the release of sulfur-type odors during the cooking process, sometimes it’s all about how those odors are dealt with during the process. If your cooking lid or steamer lid isn’t tightly fitted onto the pot, even minor odors may escape.

If you are using a steamer with an exhaust port you may wish to try putting a damp towel over the lid to absorb the escaping steam which should also help mitigate the smell somewhat. And don’t forget to wipe down your surfaces afterward, especially any splash guard or backsplash area that might have been subject to the steam from cooking your broccoli.

Opening the kitchen windows is a no-brainer if you start to smell more sulfur than you’d like, but don’t forget that your stove vent fan can also help speed up the dissipation of cooking smells in general. You can also try adding a small personal fan to a safe spot in your cooking area.

Here are some delicious recipes with broccoli to try!

Monique McArthur
Latest posts by Monique McArthur (see all)


Sunday 27th of August 2023

I place a few pieces of celery in the dish while steaming broccoli in the microwave.