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:
How to cut steaks:
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.
- 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.
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:
- Roasted Mediterranean Cauliflower (the sauce elevates this recipe, which can be built into a complete meal)
- Whole Roasted Parmesan Cauliflower (looks impressive but isn’t complicated)
- Roasted Curried Cauliflower (super simple with flavors that really pop)
- Parmesan Cauliflower Rice (a speedy side dish that complements a wide variety of entrees)
- Cauliflower Fried Rice (this unique combination of brown rice and cauliflower is filling enough to be a complete meal－loaded with veggies and family friendly)
- Cauliflower Leek Soup with Parmesan and Bacon (wholesome cauliflower makes for a velvety soup, too!)
- Cheesy Cauliflower “Flatbread” (you could also make a pizza out of this recipe)
- Low Carb Mock Potato Salad (it really tastes like potato salad!)
- Roasted Cauliflower and New Potatoes with Blue Cheese (hearty, satisfying, and cooks on a single sheet pan)