Best Ways to Steam Cauliflower Which Retain its Nutrients

Tip to steam cauliflower
Steaming is one of the most commonly used methods to cook cauliflowers, as it helps to retain most of the flavor and nutrients of the vegetable. In this Buzzle article, we shall discuss a few methods on how to steam cauliflowers using common kitchen equipment, without losing out on taste or health.
Quick Tip
Due to its mild flavor, cauliflower works very well with various seasonings. During the steaming process, experiment with salt, pepper, chillies, cumin, garlic, and other spices and condiments, to find a flavor that you like. Alternatively, you can also try mixing sauces or wines, such as soy or sherry, to enhance the taste and aroma of the florets.
Cauliflower is an extremely versatile vegetable that can be cooked in numerous ways, such as roasting, frying, baking, etc. However, for a long time, steaming has been a very popular mainstay, not only for the humble home kitchen but also large-scale, reputed restaurants. It is a very popular accompaniment for various roast meats, when mixed with other steamed vegetables such as broccoli and carrot, and also when mixed with rice to create some delicious Indian cuisine inspired dishes. The variations of using steamed cauliflowers are endless.

Steaming cauliflowers is not a difficult job, and this is true even if you don't own a proper steaming apparatus. Common kitchen appliances and tools, such as microwaves, ovens, cookers, etc., can give you nicely steamed, white cauliflower florets for you to enjoy. Let us look at each of these methods more closely. Make sure to cut and rinse the cauliflower heads properly before attempting any of the following processes.

In a Steamer
  1. Take a large vessel and half-fill it with water and bring it to a boil.
  2. Add a cup of milk or the juice of ½ a lemon to the water. This will keep the cauliflower white, throughout the cooking process.
  3. Place the steamer vegetable rack above the water, but make sure that the rack is high enough so that the cauliflower florets do not come in direct contact with the water.
  4. Put the florets onto the vegetable rack and close the lid. Now, bring the heat down to simmer.
  5. Let the cauliflower steam for 5-7 minutes, after which you should check if it cooked, by piercing a knife through the pieces. The knife should easily go though the florets. However, they should not be too soft either. Ideally, the florets should have a slight crunch, rather than being mushy. If you plan on steaming an entire cauliflower head, it will take around 20 minutes for it to properly cook.
  6. Now, you can season the cauliflower with salt, pepper, or other spices and serve.

In a Microwave
  1. In a microwave-safe container, add some water till it reaches a height of around ½-inch. Now, put in your cauliflower florets in an even layer, and close the lid of the container with just a small space left open. You can also use cling wrap to cover the container.
  2. Microwave the cauliflower for around 4-8 minutes, depending on the amount of cauliflower, and the power of your microwave.
  3. Check if the florets are cooked perfectly by piercing them with a toothpick or a knife.
  4. Strain out any water that remains, and season the cauliflower. It is now ready to serve.

In a Pot Without a Steamer Basket

Method 1:
  1. Choose a metal pot which comes with a tight lid and a thick and heavy base. Add some water in the pot, the quantity depends upon how tight the lid fits (tighter lids require less water). Remember, the water is only for steaming and not for boiling the cauliflower, so it should only reach a height of 1-2 inches.
  2. Now, pile the cauliflower florets into the pot, bigger pieces at the bottom (the process works best when the vegetables fill at least ¾th the pot).
  3. Now, put the pot on the stove, and set it on a medium heat. Wait till the lid of the pot is hot. Now, turn down the heat to low.
  4. You will need to experiment a little to get the cooking time right, because opening the lid before the florets are properly cooked will lead to a loss of steam, and may cause problems. Smaller pots with lesser quantity of vegetables need lesser time in the steaming process.
  5. Once the cauliflower is cooked, strain out any excess water, and season for flavor. The florets are ready to be served.

Method 2:
  1. Fill a pot with ½-inch of water. Bring it to a boil.
  2. Place a colander in the pot but make sure that the water does not touch its base. If the rim of the colander is smaller than the circumference of the pot, you may have to hold it in place. Use a mitt for this purpose.
  3. Place the cauliflower florets inside the colander in one layer.
  4. Cover the pot in one layer to prevent the steam from escaping, and bring the heat down to a simmer.
  5. Check the florets after 5-10 minutes to see if they are cooked well. Steam them for more time if not cooked thoroughly.

Method 3:
  1. Fill the pot with approx ½-inch of water.
  2. Make 3-4 medium-sized balls of aluminum foil and put them in the water.
  3. Place a small baking tray or heat-proof plate on the aluminum balls so that the water does not touch the tray.
  4. Put all the cauliflower on the tray/plate, cover the pot with a lid.
  5. Bring the water to a simmer, and after 5-10 minutes, check to see if the florets have cooked properly.

In an Oven
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Bring a teapot full of water to a boil on a stove, and put it in a big pot that will fit in the oven. The level of water in the pot should not be more than 1 inch.
  3. Place a baking rack over the mouth of the pot, and place the cauliflower on the rack.
  4. Cover the florets, rack, and the mouth of the pot with a sheet of foil, to prevent the steam from escaping.
  5. Let the florets cook in the steam till ready.

In a Pan
  1. In a large pan, put around ¼-inch of water, and bring to a boil.
  2. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and the cauliflower florets into the water, and cover with a lid.
  3. Steam the florets until they become tender. Season with salt and pepper, and the cauliflower is ready to serve.

In an Electric Rice Cooker
  1. Add some water in the bottom of the cooker, followed by the rice cooker basket.
  2. Place the cauliflower florets in the basket and close the lid on the cooker.
  3. Turn on the heat and let the florets steam for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add more water if needed, and turn off the cooker once the cauliflower is tender. The florets are ready to be served. You can also make steam cauliflower rice, by adding water, spices, oil, and rice to the cauliflower while it is steaming.

In a Pressure Cooker
  1. Place the cauliflower florets inside the cooker with a teaspoon of salt and a little water.
  2. Close the lid and turn on the heat. Let the florets steam till the first whistle.
  3. Shut the heat off, and immediately run the cooker under cold water to get rid of any remaining pressure. The cauliflower is now ready to be served.

Tips for Steaming Cauliflowers
  • It is important that you cut the florets into equal sizes. This will ensure that all the pieces cook at the same rate, and they will be ready at the same time. Also smaller pieces will cook faster than large ones.
  • If you are steaming cauliflower along with other vegetables, such as carrots, the cauliflower will cook faster, because it is not as dense as carrots. To avoid overcooking or under-cooking either vegetable, it is best to add the cauliflower florets to the steamer after the carrots have been cooking for a few minutes. Alternatively, create separate piles of different vegetables in the steamer. This will help you to pick out the ones that are cooked from the others more easily. Steam cauliflower and broccoli florets together as they have the same cooking time.
  • It is best to set a timer that reminds you, about the cooking time of your cauliflowers. This is because cauliflowers can easily overcook if you forget about them for even a couple of minutes.
  • Nutritionists recommend blanching as a better alternative to steaming.
  • Do not discard the leaves and stalk of the cauliflower head. They are good ingredients to add in a vegetable stock.
  • When steaming cauliflowers in a rice cooker, give the florets an occasional stir to cook them more evenly.
Storing steamed cauliflower in a cool place, will keep it crisp and tasty. You can reheat it by various methods such as placing them in hot water, sautéing, etc., and make them a part of a very enjoyable meal.
Cauliflower In a Pan
Cauliflower In a Steamer