Even the biggest fans of okra can’t deny it usually comes with a slimy texture. Although some might say that’s just part of its charm, others are completely put off by the gooey-ness — but there’s an easy cooking trick to keep this Southern staple crisp and crunchy.
Sure, you can just pickle or fry okra to distract from any viscous inside texture, or hide it in the liquid of a soup or gumbo. Those are all great options for embracing the cholesterol-lowering benefits that studies have shown come with that goopy substance.
But if you’re looking for ways to keep okra crisp and crunchy while sautéing in a stir fry or roasting up alongside veggies (fun fact: okra is technically a fruit!), food writer Emily Horton found the simple solution: High heat. She tested several different techniques — like marinating the whole pods in vinegar or slicing and drying them out overnight — and found that roasting or grilling with a high, dry heat was the most effective way to get rid of the slimy texture.
Botanist Katherine Preston explained to Horton, “When okra’s interior gel reaches high temperatures (90 degrees Celsius [194 Fahrenheit], or close to boiling), its viscosity thins.” Food scientist Harold McGee added that doing so will also help breakdown and evaporate the moisture inside okra’s cells. This leaves you with a deliciously crisp dish rather than a plate full of soggy okra that picky eaters will push away.
Using a non-stick pan, like ceramic or a well-seasoned cast iron, can help avoid needing extra oil for sautéing. You’ll also want to let it cook on its own for a bit before adding any other ingredients that might mess with the moisture levels.
Indian chef Suvir Saran shared another clever tip with Food & Wine magazine: Slice okra in longer strips rather than small circles. We aren’t scientists like McGee, but we’re sure this helps increase the surface level of the okra and allows the high heat to break down the gooey cell membranes easier.
Try this trick of cranking up the heat the next time you’re cooking okra for someone who claims to hate it and you just might change their mind!