The Knife Trick You Need For Absurdly Good Cauliflower Steaks

Cauliflower is the new kale. In recent years it has become the darling of special diets, including keto, paleo, and gluten-free. A longtime favorite on vegetarian and vegan menus thanks to its heartiness and adaptable flavor, the naturally low-calorie, low-carbohydrate ingredient makes up for what it doesn't have by being action-packed full of beneficial nutrients and fiber. In finding new and diverse ways of preparing it, innovations have led to riced cauliflower, cauli-buffalo "wings," and even using it to make cauliflower pizza crust. One of our favorite ways of preparing the unassuming vegetable however is in the form of "steaks."

By cutting a head of cauliflower into thick slabs rather than breaking it up into florets, the steaks can be cooked in a variety of different methods and enjoyed in an entirely new way. Whether grilled, roasted, or pan-fried, they turn out surprisingly meaty and filling, and provide for an appetizing presentation to boot.

While making these is actually rather easy, there are some tricks to help with cutting them just right, and one knife hack, in particular, elevates cauliflower steaks from tasty to something absurdly delicious. All you have to do is slice a crosshatched grid of intersecting lines into each slab's stem — it may sound simple, but this extra step opens up a world of flavor and improved texture. Scoring this thickest part of the vegetable allows it to cook more evenly, and better absorb the flavors of seasonings and marinades.

This simple knife hack is the key to flavorful cauliflower

Using a knife to crosshatch vegetables is nothing new, but it is most often associated with grilling. It can be used with other cooking techniques as well and will work wonders regardless of the method used. It's usually done with soft vegetables that hold a lot of water, like zucchini and eggplant — the cuts help to release moisture that would otherwise cause them to cook up soggy. A dense cauliflower can benefit from it too though, as along with letting any excess liquid steam out, the notches give heat a way in. This is important because a cauliflower's stem can take longer to cook through, so by scoring it and essentially creating more openings, the stem will be as tender as the rest of the steak.

Cutting a crisscross pattern into a cauliflower steak's stem also serves another purpose. This dish tastes best when the cauliflower is properly seasoned, regardless if you're just opting for a coat of olive oil with salt and pepper, or a more complex marinade. Cauliflower is great for soaking up flavors, but this can be tricky to achieve all the way into the harder stem portion. By scoring its surface with your chef's knife, you'll create slits that are better able to absorb herbs and sauces.

Additionally, the intersecting lines just look really nice. They will give your finished dish a more thoughtful and professional appearance, along with amplifying its delicious taste.

How to cut perfectly crosshatched cauliflower steaks

The size of the cauliflower will determine how many steaks you can get out of it, so the bigger the better. Start by cutting off any outer leaves and trim down the stem so that the bottom is flat. Stand the head up on its stem end and using a sharp knife slice down vertically to cut it in half. From the outside of each half, slice off the rounded outer sections of florets to make a flat surface (you can cook these along with your steaks). You should then be able to cut at least one or two ¾ inch to one-inch slabs from each section.

Creating the crosshatch marks couldn't be easier. Use your knife to score shallow cuts on an angle across the stem in one direction, approximately ¼" deep — but not entirely through in order to keep it intact. Then do the same moving in the opposite direction to create a diamond pattern.

You really can't go wrong with how you choose to cook these. Marinated and grilled, crisped up in a pan, or baked in the oven, all roads will lead to a satisfying result that transforms this plain vegetable into something worthy of an epic main course. For a recipe with a true wow factor, try skillet-roasted cauliflower steaks with jalapeño creamed spinach. The spicy, creamy greens complement the cumin-flavored cauliflower, which first gets browned in a skillet before being roasted to perfection in the oven.