Prevent Cauliflower from Discoloration
If you’ve ever prepared a crudité platter, you’ll understand how tricky it is to prevent cauliflower from discoloration! Here are four things you can do in your own kitchen to prevent the discoloration of cauliflower.
Why Does Cauliflower Turn Brown?
All plants, fruits and vegetables have pigments that give them their vibrant colors and these pigments change for various reasons. Cauliflower is a flavanoid of the anthoxanthin group, which is a group of “white” pigmented foods–potatoes, onions, cauliflower and pears.
In acidic environments, these foods are white; at a neutral pH they’re creamy white; in alkaline environments they are yellow. Cauliflower turns brown due to exposure to oxygen and lack of acidity during the cooking process.
4 Tips to Prevent Cauliflower from Discoloration
Cauliflower, bananas, apples, avocados, potatoes-we’ve all seen these foods turn brown when they’ve been left out too long. The pigments respond to the environment, and cauliflower turns grayish brown due to several factors:
- pH of the cooking water
- type of knife used
- type of cookware used
- degree of exposure to oxygen
The pH (potential of Hydrogen) is a scale from 0 – 14 where 0 is highly acidic and 14 is highly alkaline. Cauliflower has a pH balance around 6.5 – 6.8. Most tap and bottled drinking waters are around 6.5 – 8.0 on the pH scale. As you can see, neither of these is highly acidic, nor are they high in alkalinity. But in order to keep cauliflower white, we must increase the acidity of the water. This is easily done by adding lemon juice or vinegar to the water-neither will impact the flavor of the cauliflower.
Type of Cutlery Used to Cut Cauliflower
Another measure to ensure white cauliflower is to use a stainless steel knife. Most knives on the market are stainless steel, but it’s worth mentioning here because aluminum, tin, copper, iron and steel (not stainless steel) are reactive metals that interact with the pH of cauliflower and contribute to its yellowing or browning.
Type of Cookware
Cook cauliflower in any non-aluminum pan made of stainless steel, copper or cast-iron-these are ideal for steaming, sautéeing or searing cauliflower. Avoid pans that have a “non-stick” coating as the “coating” often affects the flavor and color of the vegetable.
Exposure to Oxygen
Fruits and vegetables often discolor when exposed to oxygen. The oxidation process naturally turns bananas and avocados brown, as well as cauliflower! The objective when cooking and storing cauliflower is to minimize exposure to air.
If you buy a head of cauliflower in advance, store it in the vegetable bin loosely wrapped. (You can keep it in its original plastic wrapper but loosen the wrapper to allow the sulphurous gases to escape. Place a dry paper towel in the wrapper to absorb any moisture and place it in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator.
If you cut the florets off the cauliflower head, first pat them with a paper towel to dry. Then, place a dry paper towel in the plastic bag with the florets and put them in a secure container.The dry paper towel absorbs any moisture, prevents molding and discoloration. You can safely store whole or cut cauliflower up to 3 days in a refrigerator that is 42ºF.
How to Cook Cauliflower
Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts can be cooked in a variety of ways. Our Grandmothers used to “boil-the-dickens” out of vegetables till they were almost too tender. Unfortunately, this method removes a majority of the vitamins and nutrients these vegetables offer. Nowdays, nutritionist recommend steaming, quick-sauteeing or roasting vegetables in order to retain their nutritional value and prevent discoloration during the cooking process.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil; add 2-3 tablespoons of lemon or vinegar
- Place steamer basket in water
- Sprinkle lemon or vinegar over cauliflower head
- Cook uncovered for 3 minutes then place a lid ajar over the cooking pot (this allows gases to escape and minimizes exposure to oxygen)
- Remove cauliflower head and allow to drain
- Slice florets off using a stainless steel knife
- Cut florets away from cauliflower head
- Place 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sautee pan
- Put florets in pan flat-side down; place lid on pan
- Bring skillet to medium-high heat; cook for 5 minutes
- Remove lid and continue to cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Remove cauliflower florets from pan and drain on paper towel
- Season and serve
- Preheat oven to 400ºF
- Lightly oil baking sheet
- Place baking sheet in oven on middle rack for 8 minutes
- Cut florets off cauliflower and place in large bowl; drizzle olive oil over cauliflower; toss until coated; lightly season with salt and pepper
- Remove hot baking sheet from oven
- Place florets in a single layer onto sheet, flat-side down
- Return baking sheet to oven
- Roast cauliflower 20-25 minutes or until fork-tender
Serving Cooked and Raw Cauliflower
If you plan to serve raw cauliflower immediately, blanch it first in acidic (2-3 tablespoons of lemon or vinegar) water, cut it with a stainless steel knife and serve. If you plan to serve raw cauliflower at a later date, blanch the entire head in acidic water and loosely wrap cauliflower head in plastic wrap with a paper towel, and store in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. Do not slice it until ready to serve-this will help to prevent discoloration.
If you steam a head of cauliflower, add a little lemon or vinegar (2-3 tablespoons) to the water and keep the entire head intact. This allows the internal parts of the cauliflower to cook till tender and remain a vibrant white color.
How Do I Know When Cauliflower is Done?
Generally speaking, a whole head of cauliflower is done after it has steamed for about 15-20 minutes. The florets should be semi-tender when pierced with a fork. Florets cook much faster than a whole head because there’s more surface volume-florets are usually done in 3-6 minutes.
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