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 all-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 our latest “The Best Way” video, associate 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, who recommends smashing the cauliflower right in the bag it comes in in order 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 it gives you uneven pieces. Not to mention, the leaves were still left on. Kelsey determines it’s fun, but “a little gnarly” for her taste.
…or try quartering it
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.
But this way is easier (and cleaner)
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.