Zucchini is a popular summer squash that can be enjoyed in many dishes. However, it’s not uncommon to end up with soggy, waterlogged zucchini after cooking it. There are a few key reasons why your zucchini might turn out overly soft and soggy.
You’re Overcooking the Zucchini
One of the most common mistakes is overcooking the zucchini. Zucchini has a high water content. When you cook zucchini at high heat or for too long, it causes the water to be released from the vegetable’s cells. This leads to a mushy, soggy texture.
Zucchini only needs a brief cooking time to become tender. Whole, uncut zucchini should be cooked 5-10 minutes. Chopped or sliced zucchini pieces will cook even faster, in just 2-5 minutes. Cooking the zucchini any longer will cause it to become mushy as the water keeps releasing.
If you’re sautéing zucchini, be sure to keep the heat high and avoid overcrowding the pan. Steaming larger cuts of zucchini should take no more than 5 minutes. Grilling planks or skewered zucchini will also only need 2-3 minutes per side over direct heat.
When a recipe calls for cooking zucchini for longer, such as braising or simmering in a soup or stew, the surrounding liquid keeps the zucchini moist. But alone by itself, zucchini shouldn’t be cooked for long.
You’re Not Cutting It Correctly
How you cut up the zucchini can also affect its texture when cooked. Smaller pieces like diced or cubed zucchini will cook faster. Larger cuts like whole zucchini rounds or spears will stay firmer in the middle.
For quick cooking methods like sautéing, roasting, or grilling, opt for smaller 1/2 inch diced or cubed cuts. Matchstick slices or quarter rounds no more than 1/4 inch thick will also cook quickly.
If you want the zucchini to hold its shape better, cook halves, thick spears, or 1-inch chunks. The thicker center will remain firmer as the outer parts soften. Cutting uniform-sized pieces will help them cook evenly.
You’re Not Removing Excess Moisture
Even when cooked briefly, zucchini can turn watery if there’s excess moisture on the surface. Before cooking, be sure to pat zucchini pieces dry with paper towels or a clean dish cloth. Allowing cut zucchini to drain in a colander for 30 minutes can also help remove moisture.
If sautéing diced zucchini, start with a hot pan and cook over high heat to quickly evaporate surface moisture. Avoid overcrowding the pan which causes moisture to steam rather than evaporate.
When roasting zucchini, lightly oil the pieces and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet without overcrowding. Roast at a high temperature (at least 400°F) to help dry out the zucchini as it cooks.
You’re Choosing Older Zucchini
Older, more mature zucchini tends to contain more seeds and moisture. As a result, mature zucchini is more likely to cook up soggy compared to younger, freshly picked zucchini.
Choose zucchini that is 6-8 inches long with firm, shiny skin and no bruises or soft spots. The skin should puncture easily when pressed with a fingernail. Avoid zucchini that has become oversized or developed a tough skin.
Store zucchini in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag no more than 3-5 days. Any longer and it will become overripe, making it prone to a waterlogged texture when cooked.
You’re Not Salting Beforehand
Salting zucchini before cooking can greatly improve its texture. Sprinkling with salt pulls out excess moisture through osmosis. This helps reduce the amount of water released during cooking.
Slice or chop the zucchini first, then sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Let rest 10-20 minutes, then rinse briefly or pat dry. The zucchini is now ready to be cooked without becoming mushy.
Salting is especially helpful when sautéing zucchini. Make sure to begin with a hot pan so the zucchini browns rather than steams.
With its high water content, zucchini requires only minimal cooking to become tender. Allowing the zucchini to overcook will lead to a mushy, soggy texture as moisture releases from the vegetable. Follow these tips to keep your zucchini firm and moist:
- Avoid overcooking. Steam, sauté, grill or roast for just 2-5 minutes.
- Cut into smaller, uniform pieces to help it cook evenly.
- Remove excess moisture by patting dry, draining in a colander or salting before cooking.
- Choose young, firm zucchini instead of old, oversized ones.
- Use high heat to evaporate surface moisture when cooking.
With the right prep and cooking methods, you can enjoy tender yet still firm zucchini, avoiding the dreaded soggy squash.