Broccoli is easy to work with once you chop it into manageable pieces. Keep florets and stem pieces at least 1 inch thick for longer cooking times, as with baking or braising, so they don't turn to mush. Cut them small for quick cooking methods, like sauteing and stir-frying.
Start with the Stem
Separate the head of florets from the stem, which is not only edible but also more flavorful than the florets. Cut perpendicularly through the stem with a sharp knife right where the individual floret stalks come together. Then cut off and discard the bottom 2 inches of the stem, which is too fibrous to eat. Also, cut away any small branches from the stem, then peel it with a vegetable peeler to remove the tough skin. Slice the remaining stem into coins or sticks, as you prefer. Add them to pastas, casseroles, stir-fries or any other dish along with the florets, or include them in a veggie side dish for textural variety and a more pronounced taste.
Chop the Florets
Lay the head of the broccoli on a cutting board. Use the tip of your knife to cut off the outer florets by slicing between the stalks. Cut the florets to the size you want. Rotate the head as you go, working your way around and inward, removing the outermost florets first. Mix the florets and stem pieces together when you're done chopping.
Cut broccoli stems on the bias at approximately a 45-degree angle. The resulting oval-shaped coins feature a greater surface area, providing faster cooking, flavorful bites and an attractive presentation. Keep stem pieces uniform in size -- and do the same for the florets -- to promote even cooking. Otherwise, smaller pieces become too soft before larger ones cook through. Cook broccoli until it's "tender-crisp" or "fork-tender," meaning that it retains a little crunch but is soft enough to cut with a fork.
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