How to Cook Okra

During my last farmers’ market trip, I was enchanted by a bin of beautiful okra and couldn’t head home without taking some of it with me. I’ve cooked okra before as part of gumbo or smothered in tomato in some other form, tried it battered and baked or fried, but had never just sauteed it on it’s on in all its okra glory.  Having never learned to cook okra during culinary school, my okra attempts have all been completely self experimental. I decided I’d give a basic sautee with Indian spices a try.

The result: okra-tastrophe!

I sliced my okra, heat some oil in the pan and tossed it in with cumin, coriander, ginger, salt and pepper; covered it to help it get nice and soft, and tossed it around a whole bunch so it didn’t stick to the pan. Once it was soft, I tossed some cooked rice in the pan, mixed it all up and transferred to a plate to enjoy my lunch. I took one bite and immediately put the fork down. It was a slimy mess so disgusting I couldn’t even eat it! 

I turned to to see what I could have done differently, and found the following helpful tips (which explained that I basically did everything wrong!).  So, dear blog readers, I share with you the tips I wish I had so that your okra is delicious and low on slime, unlike mine. You’ve won this round okra, but just wait until next time…

Here are five tips for slime-free okra.

  1. If your okra was refrigerated, bring it to room temperature first and pat it drying before slicing or cooking the okra.
  2. Cut okra into rounds, diagonally or long slices. Once cut, put into the sun for at least 30 mins to dry and remove some excess moisture. Alternately, leave it on your countertop at room temperature for 1 hour.
  3. Okra cooks up quickly, so cook it on moderately high heat. When sautéing okra, be sure that it is spread out in an even layer in the pan. If the pan is over crowded, the okra will begin to sweat and release moisture (slime).
  4. Add salt to okra only when it is just finished cooking. To add the salt, let the okra cook completely, remove it from the heat and then sprinkle salt to taste and toss quickly. If you add the salt at the beginning of the cooking process or during, it can result in a release of moisture (slime).
  5. Never cover the pan while the okra is cooking. Covering the pot will cause steam and unwanted moisture.

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