How to Break Down Cauliflower Without Making a Mess

It's a lot easier than the way you've been doing it.

Cauliflower can do it all. It’s easy to cook, versatile, and available in supermarkets pretty much year round. The only frustrating part is breaking it down once you’re ready to use it, a process that covers your workspace in little white chunks if you’re not strategic.

That’s where we come in. In this The Best Way video, food editor Kelsey Youngman demonstrates an easy, painless way to prepare cauliflower that results in minimal debris and evenly sized florets. All you need is a knife and a little bit of patience — check out her key tips below.

You can just smash it in the bag

First, Kelsey tries a tip submitted from a coworker: smashing the cauliflower right in the bag it came in to break it up. She’s a little skeptical but takes the vegetable and repeatedly whacks it on a cutting board — in the process, bits of rubble and tiny florets fly out. The method technically works, but it’s messy and results in uneven pieces. Not to mention, the leaves remain. Kelsey determines it’s fun, but “a little gnarly” for her taste.

Try quartering cauliflower

Start by peeling off the leaves at the bottom of the cauliflower head. If you want, you can set it on its stem, cut it into quarters, and cut away at the fibrous stem in the center. However, this means you’ll be cutting the florets into pieces, and that also causes a lot of rubble.

The easier (and cleaner) way to cut up cauliflower

Instead, Kelsey recommends cutting each floret away from the cauliflower stem one at a time. This leaves the stem intact, and the pieces pop off easily. (It’s also pretty meditative, if you need something simple to focus on after a long day at work.)

Feel free to break down the clusters if they’re too big

Some of the florets might come off in big clusters, and if that’s the case, take your knife and break them down by cutting along the stem lines. Let the vegetable naturally break where it wants to and again, the pieces will pop right off.

Try these cauliflower recipes

Once your cauliflower is broken down, we have plenty of recipes to try. You could simply roast cauliflower florets with a drizzle of olive oil, which caramelizes them, and toss them with pine nuts, green olives, parsley, and capers; turn them into a cheesy casserole; or make cauliflower korma.

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