Beets— sweet, seductive and full of earthy promise— are deceptively easy to peel. There are no special tools, no complicated techniques, and anyone with a thumb and forefinger can properly peel a beet.
However, before I delve into this lesson on peeling beets, it should be noted that it’s not a requirement to de-skin these crimson roots before eating, and while there may be an occasional good reason to feature a naked beet in a recipe it’s typically only a requirement of food vanity. The rough, course exterior of the beet is perfectly edible. If you choose to forgo peeling your beets, just be sure to wash them and give them a good scrub.
Raw beets are most often served grated in a variety of salad combinations, and they make for a healthy, sweet juice concoction, when combined with juiced celery, carrot, and parsley (or any others of your liking). But raw is not the only way to enjoy beets— cooking brings out their unique, decadent, complex personalities.
Personally, I prefer roasted beets to raw, in any manner of salad, and when combined with creamy, crumbled goat cheese as in the Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese recipe, I imagine any non-beet-lover might be converted. Keep in mind, fresh beets are far superior in both taste and texture to the canned versions so if you’ve never had a home-grown, freshly-cooked beet, please give it try before you swear off this winter rich staple.
How to Peel Beets
The trick to peeling beets is simply this: cook them whole. Honestly, it doesn’t matter how you cook them— you can roast them as I do below, boil them, or bake them (either wrapped in foil or placed in ovenware with a tight fitting lid).
STEP 1: Cook beets whole (without stems and greens)
For this article, I chose to slow roast my beets, uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Cut off beet greens near the top of the root. It’s ok to leave a bit of the stems (Beet greens are edible, so save them for another dish if you like.)
- Wash and lightly scrub beets.
- Place in oven safe cookware and rub beets with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.
- Cook for 50 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the beets.
- Beets are done when the skins are puckered and a toothpick inserted into the center of the root can be inserted easily with just a touch of grab) and removed without sticking.
Note: For this method of roasting, it’s not necessary to cover the baking dish. The beets roast in the dry heat of the oven.
STEP 2: Allow beets to cool long enough so they are comfortable to handle.
STEP 3: Peel
NOTE: Beets, especially red ones, will stain most everything— clothes, cutting boards and fingers. If you don’t want your cutting board to be pink, use glass dishware. As for fingers, gloves are always and option, but I like to have a good feel for my food and opt to sport a bit of color for a day. Generally washing your hands with soap right away removes most of the color.