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How-To

Deodorizing Brussels Sprouts

The problem:

I’d like to serve Brussels sprouts, but can I prepare them without stinking up the house?

The solution:

Sure, just don’t overcook them. Brussels sprouts, as well as other potentially malodorous vegetables like kale and collard greens, are members of the cabbage family. These plants contain sulfur compounds called isothiocyanates in their cells. During cooking, these compounds break down, forming other compounds, some of them terribly stinky; hydrogen sulfide, for example, smells like rotten eggs. The longer these sulfur compounds cook, the more they break down and the stinkier they get, so to minimize offensive odors, you have to minimize cooking. Try a fast cooking method such as sautéing, steaming, stir-frying, or blanching, and cook just until the Brussels sprouts are crisp-tender—they’ll taste great.

But if you and your family really love Brussels sprouts, no one’s likely to object to their odor, so go ahead and roast them or make your favorite gratin recipe—just throw open a few windows to air out the kitchen. And, honestly, as long they’re not cooked to mush, the sprouts really shouldn’t smell too bad.

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