What’s the Best Way to Cut Cauliflower?

Ann Fulton

By Ann Fulton

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A few helpful tips will make cutting this wholesome vegetable easier, less messy, and more likely to roast to golden perfection. There's also a bonus recipe and answers to frequently asked questions! 

A few helpful tips and visuals will make cutting this wholesome vegetable easier, less messy, and more likely to roast to golden perfection. There’s also an easy recipe for roasted cauliflower steaks and answers to frequently asked questions-and some fun trivia, too! 

 

 

 

Cauliflower has come a long, long way from the mushy, steamed side dish that so many of us encountered on our childhood dinner plates. In fact, this now popular vegetable was responsible for more than $400 million in sales in 2019, thanks in part to its enormous versatility.  

A decade ago, who would have thought cauliflower would be adored for its use in pizza crusts and as a substitute for rice and mashed potatoes? 

It all starts, however, with a big, round head of florets that are bound by a thick core. Knowing how to effectively deal with this cruciferous orb will get you to the deliciousness faster-and perhaps even offer incentive to enjoy it more frequently! 

 

 

How to Cut Cauliflower 2 Ways-Florets and Steaks

  • Start by removing the tough leaves from the base of the cauliflower. Snap them off with your hands or chop them with a sharp knife if they do not snap off easily. (Note: the leaves are actually edible! They can be treated more like cabbage and you can enjoy them roasted, stir-fried, steamed, or tossed into a soup or salad. I usually include any that don’t seem especially tough.)
  • The shape of each cauliflower may vary slightly. If the stem sticks out significantly after you remove the leaves, slice it close to the base to remove the excess. When planning for cauliflower steaks, make sure you leave the core intact because it helps to hold the steaks together. Larger cauliflowers tend to be easier to cut into steaks, but you can work with what you have by leaving the core.

How to cut florets:

A few helpful tips will make cutting this wholesome vegetable easier, less messy, and more likely to roast to golden perfection. There's also a bonus recipe and answers to frequently asked questions! 

On a cutting board, start by cutting the cauliflower into four even quarters. You may start with the stem side up or down here-whichever way you feel you have the most stability. 

A few helpful tips will make cutting this wholesome vegetable easier, less messy, and more likely to roast to golden perfection. There's also a bonus recipe and answers to frequently asked questions! 

Using your knife, cut the core away from each piece, angling the knife close to the base of the florets.. 

A few helpful tips will make cutting this wholesome vegetable easier, less messy, and more likely to roast to golden perfection. There's also a bonus recipe and answers to frequently asked questions! 

Once the core is removed, you should be able to break apart most of the florets with your hands. However, you can use a knife for any tougher pieces that may still have a section of the thick core attached.

A few helpful tips will make cutting this wholesome vegetable easier, less messy, and more likely to roast to golden perfection. There's also a bonus recipe and answers to frequently asked questions! 

An upside of this method is that it’s less messy. I always have fewer crumbs spraying over my counter and floor!

 

How to cut steaks:

A few helpful tips will make cutting this wholesome vegetable easier, less messy, and more likely to roast to golden perfection. There's also a bonus recipe and answers to frequently asked questions! 

Place the cauliflower on a cutting board, stem side down. I prefer to start from one of the sides because it is easier to hold onto the cauliflower. Slice off a small piece from the side of the cauliflower to create a flat edge (and save this piece, even if it crumbles!). Start slicing from this flat end. 

A few helpful tips will make cutting this wholesome vegetable easier, less messy, and more likely to roast to golden perfection. There's also a bonus recipe and answers to frequently asked questions! 

To reduce crumbling and cooking time, I aim for slices that are ¾- to 1-inch-thick. A medium to large cauliflower will typically yield 3 to 4 slices of this size. Small heads may only yield 2 intact steaks.

A few helpful tips will make cutting this wholesome vegetable easier, less messy, and more likely to roast to golden perfection. There's also a bonus recipe and answers to frequently asked questions! 

The end pieces will tend to break because there is little to no core to hold them together. Some of them can be easily pushed together to replicate a steak. 

Roasted cauliflower steaks are easy, flavorful, and can be enjoyed as a simple side dish or used as a base for a variety of other toppings. Think cooked lentils with my tahini-harissa sauce or build a pizza-inspired meal with sauce, cheese, and your favorite toppings!

A brush of olive oil, simple seasonings, and a hot oven are all that’s needed to transform the cauliflower “steaks” into something truly delicious. I’ve included an easy recipe, below.

Roasting cauliflower at a glance:

  • Both florets and steaks are great roasted. Search cauliflower recipes right here on the blog (I’ve also linked a few, below) or simply brush, toss, or spray the cut cauliflower with olive oil and season with salt and pepper (about ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and ¼ freshly ground black pepper per pound of florets; I end up using a little less salt for steaks). Then roast on a lightly greased baking sheet in an oven preheated to 425℉ for about 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is just tender and golden on the bottom.
  • I’ve also included a printable recipe for simply roasted “steaks” below.
  • Helpful tips: roasted vegetables will brown better (and cook faster) on a dark-coated baking sheet than on a light-colored sheet. Also, if vegetables are still a little wet from washing, they will tend to steam more and brown less. 

A few more things:

  • It’s nearly inevitable that you will end up with leftover little bits, pieces, and crumbles. Coat these (even the crumb-like pieces) with some oil and roast them right along with your florets or steaks. They’ll become crispy and delicious!
  • Cauliflower pairs well with a variety of seasonings, sauces, and toppings that range in different flavor profiles and cuisines.
  • Great for vegetarian fare and beyond. Cauliflower steaks can make for a heartier plant-based main dish or a perfect side dish. Florets are satisfying on their own or as an addition to soups, salads, pasta, curries, rice bowls, and many other dishes.

 

Fun facts:

  • The name “cauliflower” comes from the Latin words caulis and flos meaning “cabbage flower.”
  • The edible part of cauliflower is technically an undeveloped flower. Instead of developing into flowers, it forms into tight clusters.
  • Cauliflower is part of the cruciferous vegetable family along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage.
  • Cauliflower was not always the trendy vegetable it is today. Before its incredible versatility was discovered, cauliflower was considered a boring, bland side dish that left much to be desired. (Anyone else grow up with mushy, steamed cauliflower?) 
  • Cauliflower is not always white! You may also find purple, orange, and green varieties. Phytochemicals are health-promoting compounds in plants that are also responsible for the variety of colors we see.
  • Phytochemicals can also affect scent. Have you noticed that cauliflower can sometimes give off a unique, pungent smell? This is due to a sulfur-containing phytochemical.
  • Cauliflower is high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
A few helpful tips will make cutting this wholesome vegetable easier, less messy, and more likely to roast to golden perfection. There's also a bonus recipe and answers to frequently asked questions! 

How long will cauliflower last in the fridge?

Proper storage is essential to maintain freshness and prolong shelf life, however, cauliflower is a perishable food item. Unless you purchase precut and packaged cauliflower, it is not going to come with a use-by date.

If your cauliflower is already wrapped in plastic, stick it right in the fridge. Otherwise, wrap loosely in plastic or place in a plastic bag before storing.

Do not wash until you are ready to use. The moisture will speed up the spoilage process. Uncooked, whole cauliflower will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Raw precut or cooked cauliflower has a slightly shorter shelf-life of up to 1 week.

 

Can you freeze cauliflower?

Yes! Raw cauliflower is typically blanched (submerged into boiling water and then quickly cooling it in an ice bath) prior to freezing because it helps to preserve color and freshness.

However, you can freeze them without blanching first, just rinse them very well under running water. With either method, remove as much moisture as possible or allow the cauliflower to dry and then transfer to a freezer-safe container.

Is your cauliflower already roasted? That’s fine! Simply place in your freezer-safe container and it is ready to freeze. Cauliflower will last safely in the freezer for up to 8 to 12 months.

 

What’s the best way to cook frozen cauliflower?

Frozen vegetables naturally release a good bit of water when thawed and tend to cook up softer than their fresh counterparts. For best results, don’t thaw before cooking and roast the frozen cauliflower at an oven temperature of 450°F. I roast most fresh vegetables at 425℉, but the higher heat will evaporate any ice condensation on the frozen cauliflower, allowing it to roast in the oven rather than steaming.

Start by tossing the frozen florets generously with oil. You want them to be well coated. The oil will help to achieve some degree of browning on the edges of the cauliflower.

Additionally, stir the florets half-way through cooking, as this will allow the heat of the oven to more thoroughly dry a greater area of the florets. Total cooking time will be about 25-30 minutes. 

 

How do you know when cauliflower is going bad?

Now that you know how to store a cauliflower, it will help to know what spoilage looks like.

Light brown spots on the curds (the edible part) are common, but this doesn’t mean you need to immediately throw it away. This is a natural response its exposure to light and air, like when a sliced apple turns brown. You can eat these spots or scrape them away.

If these spots become a darker brown or black, however, this is a sign of spoilage. Other signs to watch out for are mushy, soft, or slimy spots, mold, or an off-putting smell.

 

Favorite cauliflower recipes:

 

Recipe for simple, versatile cauliflower steaks

Roasted cauliflower steaks are easy, flavorful, and can be enjoyed as a simple side dish or used as a base for a variety of other toppings. Think cooked lentils with my tahini-harissa sauce or build a pizza-inspired meal with sauce, cheese, and your favorite toppings!

Easy Roasted Cauliflower Steaks
Yield: 3-4 servings
Roasted cauliflower steaks are easy, flavorful, and can be enjoyed as a simple side dish or used as a base for a variety of other toppings. Think cooked lentils with my tahini-harissa sauce or build a pizza-inspired meal with sauce, cheese, and your favorite toppings!
Ingredients
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (or olive oil spray)
  •  ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt, fresh black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika (and/or your favorite herbs and spices)
  • 1 large head cauliflower*
  • 3-4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, optional
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 425℉. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with nonstick spray.

Trim the cauliflower of any tough stem pieces and slice to form a flat base for easier cutting, if necessary. (Any green leaves may be left, as they will become crisp and flavorful when roasted.) Cut the cauliflower into slices that are ¾- to 1-inch thick, cutting from the top of the head to the bottom and from one side to the other (rather than into halves first). Don’t worry if some of the pieces crumble. The little bits will add to the texture later. Helpful hints: Depending on how big your head of cauliflower is, you’ll likely get 3 to 4 steaks. If the slices closer to the ends fall apart (there is not enough core under the rounded parts to keep them fully intact), you can place the pieces together on the baking sheet to look like an intact steak. (see photo above)

Place the slabs on the prepared sheet and brush (or lightly spray) with olive oil. Sprinkle the seasonings evenly overtop. (Tip: I find it easier to mix them in a small bowl first.)  Roast for 20-25 minutes or until tender and lightly golden on the bottom. Toss or brush any loose florets or little bits with olive oil and season them lightly as well. They can be distributed around the steaks.

If using Parmesan, when cauliflower is done roasting, sprinkle each steak with cheese to lightly cover, and place back in the oven for 5 minutes or until melted. You may also broil for a minute or two until golden on top, watching closely to avoid burning.

Notes

*When making steaks, the larger the head of cauliflower the more steaks you will get. Look for at least a 2-pound head, if possible. If your head of cauliflower is much bigger, you may increase the seasonings proportionately. Ultimately, you want a light coating of oil and enough seasoning to add desired flavor. Feel free to experiment with other spices, like curry and Italian or Greek seasonings.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

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