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The Secret to Making Perfect Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

On a chill wintry night, there's just nothing like savory cabbage rolls. They come to the table as self-contained packets of pure comfort.

Lamb and Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Lamb and Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls | Photo by Oksana Seaman

Comforting cabbage rolls are one of the world's great braised dishes. And yet, they can intimidate home cooks. Maybe because cabbage rolls seem a little worky. But they're really not difficult. Here are some quick tips for simplifying stuffed cabbage rolls:

Here's a simple way to separate and soften the cabbage leaves. First, using a paring knife, core a large head of cabbage; then carefully place the whole head of cabbage into a half-filled pot of simmering water. Cover. After about a minute, the leaves will begin to peel away. As they do, gently pull them off with tongs. Then let another layer or two loosen and start to separate, and pull them off, too. By parboiling, you're also softening the leaves for easy rollability.

Parboiling a cored head of cabbage

Parboiling a cored head of cabbage | Photo by Chef John

Next, form your savory filling into tiny logs. (For filling ideas, check out the 5-star recipes below.) Place a log of filling toward the bottom (the stem end) of the softened cabbage leaves. Then roll 'em up, tucking in the sides as you go.

Don't roll too tightly! You want a loose package because rice will expand as it cooks in the braising liquid. For a quick tutorial on rolling, check out Chef John's video for Lamb and Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls.

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Line the bottom of your Dutch oven with extra cabbage leaves. And place the cabbage rolls on top. Add the braising liquid and any additional ingredients. If you can't fit all the rolls in one layer, you can always add a second layer. Bonus tip: if you have gaps, fill them with extra cabbage leaves -- wad them up and plug the gaps so the rolls don't unroll and/or float around in the braising liquid. Finally, cover the rolls with a few extra cabbage leaves. Laying down cabbage leaves on both the bottom and top keeps the rolls moist and prevents scorching.

Then it's time for the oven. Once the rolls are fork tender, you'll take them from the oven and let them finish at room temperature, with the lid on, for an additional 30 minutes. You'll be glad you took the time; the rolls will cool slightly and the flavors will continue to meld.

Lamb and Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Watch Chef John make a batch of "lambage" rolls. You’ll see how to prep the cabbage and get smart techniques for removing the core and for rolling cabbage leaves.

Some Top-Rated Cabbage Roll Recipes

Cabbage Rolls II

Quick Tip: "Be SURE and use VERY lean beef -- you don't cook the meat before rolling it into the cabbage leaves, so there will be no way to drain off the fat." -- KRANEY

Slovak Stuffed Cabbage

Quick Tip: "Drain and rinse the sauerkraut thoroughly and squeeze the excess water out to remove the brine." -- Vicky

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Quick Tip: "I bake this recipe in the oven rather than cooking it stove top. I line my pan with the larger cabbage leaves. I also cover the cabbage rolls with additional leaves. This way the actual cabbage rolls stay moist and don't get burned." -- Mary

Halupki (Stuffed Cabbage)

Quick Tip: "Be sure to serve with mashed potatoes or sour cream and chive mashed potatoes for a twist." -- Jillian

More Cabbage Roll Recipes

Golabki Cabbage Rolls

Golabki Cabbage Rolls | Photo by lutzflcat

Too involved? Okay, here's a simplified version: Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls -- they're the busy weeknight version of cabbage rolls. Or if you prefer casserole style, here's an Easy Cabbage Roll Casserole.

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About Carl Hanson

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