Mistakes You're Making When Cooking Cauliflower
From using the wrong oil to overcrowding the pan, you may be guilty of these common blunders.
Whether it's because of the cauliflower-based items at Trader Joe's or this white veggie's ability to stand in as a low-carb alternative for rice or potatoes, cauliflower just continues to grow in popularity. Plus, it's great for those looking for more plant-based options, since you can grill up cauliflower "steaks" or bake Buffalo "wings."
But you could mess up that delicious cauliflower's texture and flavor if you cook it the wrong way. There are some pretty common mistakes that could cost you your dish. Here's what to avoid doing for tasty, tender, and flavorful cauliflower recipes:
That cauliflower rice might turn into cauliflower mush if you cook it way too long, whether in the microwave or on the stove top. "When it is riced it's really easy for it to turn mushy from overcooking and then it won't hold up as well in your dishes where you're trying to use it to substitute rice," says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. It should cook in the microwave for 3-4 minutes and when you're heating it up on a pan it should be about 2-3 minutes. Keeping riced cauliflower on a pan longer than that will start make it turn too crumbly and wreck the texture.
Overcooking is bad, but undercooking cauliflower is an equally off-putting problem. "When making cauliflower steaks or roasting florets, if you don't roast it in the oven long enough it will be warm but still hard and unenjoyable to eat," says Michalczyk. Be sure to check them before you turn the oven off and give them extra time if they are still too firm. "Roast for 20 to 25 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees," she says, "Check the tenderness with a fork and flip them over halfway through." A little golden brown around the edges is what you are going for!
Cooking in the Microwave Without Water
Cooking it in the microwave without water at the bottom is a big mistake, as it won't actually cook the cauliflower through. "You want to create a steam environment in the microwave so cooking without any water or anything covering the cauliflower could result in undercooked cauliflower," says Michalczyk. "Put about 2 tbsp. of water at the bottom of the dish, and then add the cauliflower for cooking."
"Don't get me wrong I am sure there are people who love it plain, but the taste of cauliflower is really elevated with a little bit of your favorite seasoning — something like Parmesan cheese or even Buffalo sauce," says Michalczyk. Go beyond your basics of salt and pepper, and toss florets in your favorite seasoning blend or sauce before serving.
Using the Wrong Oils
Don't just pick up any oil from your pantry! "Olive oil is not especially suited for cooking at high temps when roasting because of its low smoke point. Roast cauliflower in the oven using avocado oil instead to prevent them from burning," says Michalczyk. By using an oil with a low smoke point, you may end up with a dish that tastes charred or burnt.
While you certainly can sauté cauliflower, it's not your best option. "This cruciferous vegetable doesn't have flat surfaces, so it won't cook evenly when sautéed," says food blogger and recipe developer Alexandra Frazier Blay, "Instead, opt for baking [grilling or roasting] this vegetable to get cauliflower that's perfectly cooked through,"
Crowding the Baking Sheet
Cauliflower has a very high water content, so it won't get crispy if you bake the florets crowded together. "Be sure to give each floret a bit of room so that the they have space for airflow. I'd also recommend baking them on a silicone baking mat," says Blay. The edges will get much crispier than they would if you baked them on parchment paper.
Using Only Florets
Try roasting the whole thing! "Whole roasted cauliflowers are an amazing vegetarian centerpiece," Blay says. Try rubbing the outside with your favorite seasoning and oil and roasting the entire head the next time you're looking for a delicious meatless meal. You can even carve it at the dinner table, just like you would a chicken or turkey.
Not Draining Excess Water
"If you want to make cauliflower rice or cauliflower pizza crust, you'll need to wring out the excess moisture using a clean kitchen towel," says Blay. If you don't, your cauliflower will be far too mushy to imitate the carbs you're trying to replace.