What's In Season

The Secret to Perfectly Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Pitmaster Pat Martin shares his no-fail method

Photo: John Burgoyne

When it comes to brussels sprouts, it was not love at first bite for the Nashville-based pitmaster Pat Martin. “As a kid, I loved vegetables, but I didn’t like okra and I didn’t like brussels,” says the owner of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint and Hugh-Baby’s BBQ & Burger Shop. But then he met his now wife, Martha Ann, who won over his heart—and belly. “It’s her favorite vegetable, and she makes great brussels,” he says. “So now they’re one of my favorites, and I love to make them for her.” His go-to preparation involves crisping them in a cast-iron skillet (see recipe). “It’s one of those things you can’t beat cast iron on,” Martin says. “While I’ve gotten to appreciate them just as they are, shaved in a salad, for example, I really think brussels are better when they have a little acidity and spice, and a lot of char. I like to get them good and crispy.”

The late-winter cabbage made it to the United States via French settlers who landed in Louisiana in the eighteenth century. The edible buds grow on a stalk and are best purchased that way, rather than separated, to ensure freshness. They’ll keep for about a week in the refrigerator until you’re ready to get cooking. Martin’s secret to crispy goodness is to give the sprouts a mini cure—he salts them and lets them sit for a few hours before cooking to draw out excess moisture. Once crisped, they make an outstanding side dish with just about any protein—barbecue included. “Just like whole hog is better cooked on a block pit than anything else, same goes for brussels sprouts and cast iron,” Martin says. “It’s just the way God meant it to be.”  

The Chef Recommends:
Martha Ann’s Brussels

Yield: 4–6 servings

24 brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1–2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 lemon, zested


Place brussels sprouts on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and let them sit for 2 to 3 hours. Remove and pat dry with a paper towel. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Lightly toss sprouts in oil, remaining teaspoon of salt, and red pepper flakes. Place them in the skillet, cut side down. After 2 minutes, flip and cook an additional 3 minutes. Flip again and cook for 1 more minute. Remove sprouts and place in a serving bowl. Toss with lemon zest and additional salt to taste.