Learn the best way to cut cabbage, no matter the recipe.
From silky stuffed cabbage rolls to bright, crunchy slaws, cabbage is one of the most versatile—not to mention affordable—vegetables around. A member of the brassica species, the word “cabbage” actually refers to more than just the round green or purple heads you see in the produce aisle: vegetables like bok choy and choy sum are considered cabbages as well.
Here, we’ll be talking specifically about cabbage varieties with tight, leafy heads, like Savoy, purple, and Napa cabbages. While slicing or shredding is best for raw or fermented dishes like salads or sauerkraut, many recipes also call for cabbage to be cut into halves or wedges for braising or roasting. Read on for our tips on cutting and coring your cabbage for a variety of delicious recipes.
When shopping for cabbage at the grocery store or farmers market, try to pick small or medium-sized heads that feel heavy for their size and have dense, tightly packed leaves. Avoid heads that feel limp when you pick them up—this could indicate an older cabbage, or one that wasn’t grown properly (note that some varieties, like Napa, are naturally fluffier and less dense than varieties like Savoy).
As far as appearance, the outer leaves of a cabbage should look bright and lustrous—this goes for both purple and green varieties. A few spots or imperfections are fine, but avoid anything with major discoloration or bruising, as this could be a sign of worse damage inside.
Before you start chopping your cabbage, you’ll want to peel off the tough outer leaves, as well as any other leaves that appear damaged or wilted. Give the whole cabbage a quick rinse and pat dry before cutting into it.
This core of the cabbage is perfectly edible, but it’s usually tough and fibrous—a no-go for fresh preparations like slaws, as well as for most cooked preparations. For braised dishes, or any recipe that requires low-and-slow cooking, feel free to leave the core in, though make sure to slice it first.
Step 1: Slice Cabbage in Half
If working with a round cabbage variety, such as a Savoy or purple cabbage, start by positioning the head on your cutting board with the stem facing down. Using a sharp Chef Knife, slice straight down through the core into two equal halves.
Step 2: Cut Out the Core
Take one of your two cabbage halves and position it core side-down, with the cut side tilted toward you, and then carefully cut into the cabbage along either side of the triangular core. Slice straight down until your knife hits the cutting board and you can easily remove the core.
Coring Other Shapes of Cabbage
For more elongated cabbage varieties, like Napa or the cone-shaped Caraflex, position the head lengthwise on your cutting board so that the core is facing toward you. Slice the cabbage through the core into two even halves, and then proceed with the steps above. You can also slice the cabbage into quarters before coring to make it easier, unless your recipe requires the halves to remain intact.
Whether you’re making a rich, savory stew like Polish bigos or a crisp, tangy kimchi or kraut, you’ll probably need to slice or shred your cabbage. Here’s our guide for doing this safely and easily.
Step 1: Position Your Cabbage
Whether you’re working with cabbage that’s been halved or quartered, you’ll want to position whatever portion you’re working with on the cutting board so that it’s parallel to you with the core end facing out to one side.
Step 2: Slice
Using a sharp Knife, slice each cabbage half or wedge into thick or thin strips depending on what the recipe calls for. Slicing lengthwise will yield longer pieces, while slicing widthwise will yield shorter ones. How thickly you slice them will depend on the recipe or your personal preference.
For raw preparations like slaws and salads, you’ll probably want to shred your cabbage. This basically means slicing it extra thin so it’s easier to eat raw. Here’s how to shred cabbage with a Knife, mandoline, or food processor.
With a Knife
You can shred cabbage with a Knife the same way you would when slicing it, but you’ll want to slice it as thinly as possible—around ⅛ of an inch or less. This is easier—not to mention safer—with a blade that’s extra sharp.
With a Food Processor
Using a food processor fitted with a shredding disc or slicing attachment, add cabbage to the feed tube one chunk at a time with the machine running.
With a Mandoline
Smaller chunks or wedges of cabbage are easier to slice with a mandoline. With the handle facing you, and using the plastic hand guard, push the cabbage back and forth over the mandoline blade while applying even pressure.
Cheap, versatile cabbage is a truly versatile vegetable. Here are a few ways you can maximize its potential for multiple recipes.
Store Cut Cabbage Correctly
Stored properly, uncut cabbages can last virtually forever—or, at the very least, for a couple of months. Cut heads have a slightly shorter shelf life, and should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or placed in a Ziploc bag before storing in the crisper drawer. Like all vegetables, cabbage loses flavor and nutrients over time, so try to use it up sooner rather than later.
Use the Right Tool
A good, sharp kitchen Knife is our go-to for cutting cabbage, as you can use it to halve, core, and slice the head all with one tool. That being said, unless you’re a pro chef, it’s hard to get ultra-thin, feathery shreds without the aid of a mandolin.
We recommend using a mandolin if your recipe calls for a whole head of cabbage or more—although using a food processor will be even quicker and easier.
Now that you know exactly how to prepare one of our favorite brassicas, it’s time to rescue that lonely Savoy from the back of your crisper drawer and turn it into a delicious dinner. If you’re looking for a seasonal side, Mashama Bailey’s recipe for Sweet and Sour Braised Cabbage is an excellent holiday side. Cooked low and slow with the addition of golden raisins, allspice, and Bay leaves, this warming dish will convert anyone who’s not a fan of cabbage.
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