Skip the beef (or a knockoff) for something better.

By Chris Malloy
February 18, 2021
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Treated right, cauliflower might be able to quell—or even improve upon—a meat craving. Sure, some people turn to the new crop of alt lab-grown products to taste "meat," but there are other options if those aren't your thing. Cauliflower can deliver a meaty richness while also going its own way.

The key? Turn the vegetable into "steaks." Then cook and finish them to match.

How to Cut Cauliflower Steaks

Cutting cauliflower steaks is the only tricky part of making them. When cutting slabs from a whole head, each slice must have part of the inner stem to hold the cauliflower steak together. Visualize cauliflower on a cutting board, stem facing you. Now, imagine what would happen if you sliced off the head's rightmost sliver. The pieces would detach, falling to the cutting board as disconnected florets, right?

This is why some connective core must be in each slice. Because of this limitation, you can only get three steak-like cuts per cauliflower, maybe four if your cauliflower is very large. The rest becomes florets for another use.

With a sharp knife, slice vertically down through the vegetable. How thick for each slab? That depends. If you slice on the thin side (.75 inches or 1 inch), the steak will become charred and crispy almost like standard roasted cauliflower. But if you go thick, more like 1.5 inches, the steak will develop substance, a tender glide, and a nutty meatiness.  

Season Your Cauliflower Properly

Your cauliflower steaks have been cut. It's all downhill from here.

Before cooking them, you don't have to rub or marinade. You can, but there's ample opportunity to add flavor after cooking. Get the ball rolling, though, by rubbing each steak with olive oil (or a similar oil) and coating liberally with salt. Granulated garlic is also a smart, versatile add.

To Roast or to Grill?

The two most practical methods of cooking cauliflower steaks are in the oven and on the grill. I prefer the grill.

Set your grill to medium-high heat. Its temperature should be about 450℉. Once the grill has fully heated, cook your steaks for five minutes or so on each side, or until generously charred and a fork can slide into the thickest part easily.

Thinner steaks cook faster. If a thicker steak becomes too charred before its interior is cooked, then finish it for a few minutes over indirect heat.

When using an oven, bake cauliflower steaks in a foil-covered baking pan for 10 minutes at 400℉. Set the heat to 450℉ and blast the steaks for another five minutes at the end, creating more brownness and texture.

Don't Forget Finishing Touches

Punching up flavor post-cooking can one of two ways.

The first way focuses on embraces the meaty qualities. You can do this by adding a grating of Parmesan (for umami) and lemon juice, then tossing to mix. Or you can treat your cauliflower steaks as you would a skirt steak or ribeye. Here, sauces with a history of complementing steak, like chimichurri, are excellent.

On the other hand, you might want to embrace cauliflower's vegetable side. Right before serving, add herbs, pine nuts, and a balsamic drizzle. Or finish with a dollop of yogurt sauce or spoonful of miso-based vinaigrette.

The final touch? A steak knife beside the plate. The knife makes for fluid cutting and puts you in a meaty mindset—not that you need the boost if you've treated your "steak" the right way.