If You're Still Cutting Cauliflower Into Florets, You're Doing It All Wrong
When it comes to roasting vegetables, I do not mess around. There are a few vegetable roasting truths that I follow religiously. You need an intensely hot oven (we're talking 450°F), you need not be stingy with your oil (you want enough cooking fat to for the vegetables to have something to cook and caramelize in), you'll probably need to get in there a few times to rotate the pan and stir the veggies, and you need to be patient in order to see browning. But even with all of these roasting tips in mind, there's one vegetable that can prove to be difficult when you're roasting it, and that vegetable is cauliflower.
Now, let's back up for a second. How do vegetables achieve caramelization and browning in the oven? When food comes into contact with a super hot pan and cooking fat (oil), this leads to caramelization and browning. When a food item has a flat surface, this promotes even, deep browning, because there is a leveled surface that is coming into direct contact with the hot pan.
In the case of cauliflower florets, there are no "flat sides" to this shape. Even though roasting is a great way to cook food items that are irregularly shaped (as opposed to pan-searing, which doesn't offer the same uniform heat that a hot oven does), it's still difficult to achieve that highly sought-after golden-brown finish on certain foods.
So, how do you prep cauliflower in a way that's not a tree-like floret, a shape that struggles to make a ton of direct contact with your pan? You cut the head into planks, and then break these planks down into smaller pieces. Grab your sharpest knife and place your head of cauliflower cauliflower, stem side down, on a cutting board. Slice the head vertically in half. Working with one half at time, cut ½-inch-thick slabs, trimming out the stem as necessary.
You can either leave the planks and cook them like steaks, or trim down the planks into smaller pieces for more floret-sized bites. By cutting the cauliflower vertically, you're creating a smooth cut-side that will caramelize like a dream. Make sure to flip these planks half way through cooking so that both sides can get some color. No more awkward florets on the pan — you're looking at some seriously crispy, golden-brown cauliflower.