Cooking Cauliflower

Cooking Cauliflower

Like other members of the cabbage family, cauliflower tends to be most flavorful during the colder months. The familiar white heads are the most common type of cauliflower, but there are purple, green and golden varieties as well.

The Basic

  • To choose - Look for vibrant heads that are firm and dense with no bruises.

  • To store - Wrap heads of cauliflower in perforated plastic bags and refrigerate for several days. Use as soon as possible, as cauliflower's sweetness fades with time. Precut florets are even more perishable. Use them the day you buy them.

  • To clean - Soak in salted cold water for 30 minutes or more to flush out any debris lodged inside the heads.

  • To remove core and leaves - With a large knife, slice through the stem end close to the base of the head to remove the leaves. With a thin knife, cut around the core as close as possible to the florets to remove the core and tough stem ends in one piece.

  • To separate into florets - Core as described above, then break off the florets individually by hand.

  • To cook - Cook cauliflower quickly. To speed cooking time, divide the head into small florets. Florets can be boiled, steamed or cooked in a microwave oven on high power. With either method, it takes about 5 minute to cook a pound of cauliflower florets to tenderness.

  • To cook a large head whole - For large heads of cauliflower (1 1/2 pounds or heavier), steaming is best. Core as described above. Then with a large knife, slice through the stem end close to the base of the head. Insert the tip of the knife deeply into the core, making two perpendicular cuts (or a deep X), to allow stem to permeate the tough core and stem areas more quickly. Steam over boiling water with the core end down until a knife can pierce the core easily, 15 to 20 minutes.

  • To cook a small head whole - Small heads of cauliflower (less than 1 1/2 pounds) can be cooked faster in a microwave oven (The microwave gives uneven results with larger heads). Core as described above. Then, slice through the stem end, as described for large heads. Place in a microwaveable dish with the core end down, cover and microwave on high power until the core can be easily pierced with a knife or fork, 6 to 7 minutes.

  • To preserve the white color - Add vinegar, lemon juice or milk to the cooking water.

More Cooking Guide

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