How to Cut Cauliflower

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Overhead view of cauliflower cut in half
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Fun fact: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, and kohlrabi are all the exact same plant—Brassica oleracea. That’s right, they’re not just closely related members of the same botanical family or genus, they are literally all the same species, each a variant cultivated for one specific trait. In the case of cauliflower (and broccoli), the plant was bred to have pronounced flower buds, which is what make up the florets we enjoy so much.

Cutting up cauliflower into florets is easy, especially if you can visualize the branching structure of the buds that all grow off one central stalk; that stalk is often referred to as the “core” when discussing cauliflower.

Here is how to easily break cauliflower down into florets, as well as tips on making cauliflower “steaks.”

To Cut Cauliflower Into Florets

Using a paring knife, trim away any leaves from around the base of the cauliflower. Then cut the head into quarters.

Overhead view of cutting a cauliflower in half
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Cut out the central “core” from each quarter. Note: The core can be cut up and used in many recipes, do not discard it unless you’re certain you don’t need or want it.

Overhead view of removing the core from cauliflower
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Once the core is removed, using your hands and/or a knife, break off large florets following their natural divisions. In some recipes, you may want to stop there and use the large florets as-is.

Overhead view of breaking cauliflower into florets
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

For smaller florets, use a knife to cut each floret into smaller portions. If you want a more natural division without a perfectly flat cut side on each floret, you can use a knife to split the branch that holds the flower buds together, then use your hands to pull the flower buds apart; they will break apart more naturally and unevenly this way, which is sometimes desirable. Use as desired.

Overhead view of cutting cauliflower florets into smaller pieces
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

To Cut Cauliflower Steaks

The key to cauliflower “steaks” is to keep the core intact and attached to each steak: It is needed to hold the steak together. Begin by trimming away any green leaves growing from the base of the cauliflower head, then cut it vertically into slabs about 1/2 to 1 inch thick. You will inevitably create some trimmings with this, since the outer florets will not be attached to the core once cut (this, in all honesty, makes cauliflower steaks a much better idea for restaurants and a less good one for homes, since restaurants can collect enough of the trimmings to turn them into another menu item, while home cooks can’t as easily).

A head of spiced and grilled cauliflower, cut in half lengthwise and overlapping on a green ceramic plate. At the top left edge of the image is a small ceramic bowl holding chopped herbs, which are also sprinkled across the surface of the cauliflower.
Serious Eats / Eric Kleinberg

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