Why You Shouldn't Cook Baby Spinach, According To Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay has something to say about spinach. It's an all-star of the leafy green family, though it is actually in the amaranth family and more similar to beets and quinoa. The vegetable has earned its reputation for being a nutritional powerhouse boasting high amounts of both vitamin A and C, as well as folic acid, calcium, and iron, not to mention it's a great source of insoluble fiber (via Healthline). Some studies even suggest that spinach may help improve eye health and issues with high blood pressure. SFGate also notes that spinach is high in antioxidants and contains minerals that may support digestive tract health, as well as collagen that promotes tissue strength. 

When you think of spinach, you may imagine bags or plastic tubs of baby spinach. Mature spinach is a much bigger leaf with a more robust flavor and more integrity when cooked. The two varieties are the same but one is just picked before it matures, giving it a lighter flavor, according to Taste of Home. Now, Flay has stated on his podcast that the less mature version of the vegetable should never be cooked.

Cooking baby spinach can lessen the flavor

Recently, celebrity chef Bobby Flay broke down why baby spinach shouldn't be cooked on the Always Hungry podcast. Baby spinach has such a delicate flavor, so Flay suggests keeping it raw to preserve the nuanced flavor because it just doesn't come through when cooked. Additionally, Bon Apétit reports that baby spinach just tends to be a slimy glob that is an unpleasant texture when cooked. This is because spinach has a high water content which is expelled, causing the dreaded sogging. The quick release of moisture is also why spinach shrinks when cooked, according to BBC Good Food. 

However, the slight sliminess might be worth it because your body can absorb more calcium and iron when the leafy green is cooked (via Consumer Reports). In its raw state, the oxalic acid in the vegetable blocks the absorption of those minerals but is easily broken down when heated. It still might be better to opt for more mature leaves over baby spinach, if you trust Flay.