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Beets - What am I doing wrong?

  • egit Mar 13, 2012 08:50 AM

I love beets. I get them in restaurants all the time. I enjoy them in salads, as a side, heck I even had them in an ice cream once.

Recently I've been inundated with them from my winter CSA. Primarily I have two ways of cooking them, either simmering them for about an hour, or roasting them for an hour. Lately though the "just slip the skin off when they're cool enough to handle" hasn't been working. In fact this little trick has never worked very well for me, but it seems particularly bad with the beets I've been getting.

When I roast them, it's at 350 for about an hour (or until they're done), uncovered. Should I cover them? Should I wrap them in foil? Even when I boil them I wind up not being able to get most of the skin off without completely mangling the root, or worse trying to use a peeler. The latter technique usually results in a High Velocity Stain Rocket vectoring around my kitchen. They can be slippery when half peeled.

Is it the beets? Are they not fresh enough? Or, like peeling hard boiled eggs, are they too fresh? Is the oven temp wrong? Should I add something to the water if I'm simmering them (salt, acid, etc)? I usually trim off the long root if it's attached as well as the stem end if it's too gnarly.

Any thoughts? Your help and guidance will be treated with due veneration if you solve my problem. I don't want to be reduced to tears again by a pile of root veggies.

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  1. I have to say i've never really had trouble peeling mine. So something must be going on.

    I am not much help because I usually only cook my beets on way - washed, greens trimmed off leaving about an inch of stem, put into foil with a few TBS of water, wrapped tightly, and baked in a hot oven (I'm usually around 400) for an hour to 1 1/2 hours (depending on size). A knife should easily just slip through them when they are done.

    I then hold the stem bit end and take a paper towel and just slide the skins right off.

    My first thought is that maybe I cook mine further than you do (since 350 for an hour is less time than what I end up with). I also wonder if the steam in the foil package helps loosen the skin (though I would think boiling would help too but that hasn't worked for you).

    I love beets too - so hopefully someone else has had this same problem and can help!

    2 Replies
    1. re: thimes

      I use basically the same method, but I too am usually unable to rub the skins off with a paper towel. Beets in a casserole dish, little water in the bottom, cover with foil, roast at 425 for about an hour, longer if beets are larger. (I cook on a vintage stove, my 425 is probably equivalent to your 400.) Probably because I use recycled paper towels. I'm sure a kitchen towel would work well but I have been unwilling to sacrifice one to the red stains. I use the dull side of a paring knife to scrape off the skin, then I use the blade for those inevitable sticky spots. If I scrape the beet with the blade, I get a horrible mess, but the dull side seems to work well for this job. I roast a lot of beets every week because my toddler likes them and I find them useful to add to salads etc. during the week. I also try to use larger beets because that way there are fewer to peel!

      1. re: thimes

        i also wrap them in file and roast for about an hour at 400F. then when they're cool enough, i unwrap them and peel them under cold running water. usually no problem getting the skins right off.

      2. I have used kitchen gloves (the latex ones with the little nubbins on them for grippiness) to take the skin off. My method is purloined from
        http://www.onlinegardenertips.com/veg...

        1. Foil does the trick for me. I also have trouble peeling beets if I roast them uncovered. Now I always use foil - individually wrapped for large beets, or just one sheet over the pan for smaller ones. A bonus of the one-sheet-over-the-pan method: I drizzle olive oil and add some whole spices that gently flavor the beets.

          1. I find it easier to peel beets before roasting. I use a Y shaped peeler and slice the tops and bottoms off with a sharp serrated knife. Then I cut into cubes and roast.

            Lemon juice works wonders in getting beet juice off your palms.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cheesecake17

              I do this too, and if I peel before cooking, I often cut them into wedges and steam them instead of roasting. I usually do this in the summer so as to avoid turning on the oven. Oh, and thanks for the lemon juice tip! I will try it. The beet stains on my hands don't bother me so much, but they upset my toddler who confuses them with "boo boos."

            2. "Recently I've been inundated with them from my winter CSA"

              Cut beet into thin slices and saute 15-25 minutes with onions with salt and pepper. Or Kikkoman soy sauce. With organic beets this really brings out the taste.

              2 Replies
              1. re: zzDan

                Do you peel them first? How does that work for you? Does the soy not bring out the taste in nonorganic beets? Are you saying that organic beets are less flavorful?

                1. re: wyogal

                  Hi
                  Better way of saying ---- is this saute preparation tastes much better with organic or in season locally grown beets. Soy sauce will help all beets, organic or not. Olive or any oil will do.
                  I do not peel first. But I never peel potatoes either...a guy thing

              2. My latest favorite method for cooking beets is to peel, cut into bit size pieces (quarters if small), lightly salt, and seal in a vacuum bag. Put in a pot of boiling water and boil in the bag (I've been doing about 20 minutes)... the bag will puff up a bit, so I generally turn once in the pot. I'm generally using for salads, so I cool in a water bath. Seems the fastest / least messy way to cook beets for me.

                1. Thanks everyone. It's nice to know I'm not the only person who's had some trouble with the cook-then-peel method. I guess I wasn't cooking them long enough, or at a high enough temperature, and I was definitely not wrapping or covering them.

                  1. I've noticed that beets this time of year are a lot drier than earlier in the season or freshly picked. They've got a different, woodier texture and are also less tasty, but ymmv.
                    Whatever you're getting/eating now was probably harvested last fall. I had some from my CSA farmer a month or so ago and they were completely different than what I get from him earlier in the season, even though I know for a fact they're the exact same beet.
                    I suspect your problem is related to moisture. Not enough oomph left inside to steam them, or a peel that is more tightly attached because of having been stored all these months.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: splatgirl

                      I think this is the best answer yet.
                      So, to the OP, add moisture, cover (the suggestion of adding some water to a foil wrapped beet sounded good), cook longer.

                    2. Were they woody when you finally got them peeled? I have been cooking beets for a zilion years and recently at my grocer in two trips I bought these beets, boiled them for an hour - they were still real hard and when I cut them in two to try to cook them some more - they were woody inside. I cooked them anyway for another half hour and they were still woody. One comment below says they may have been harvested last fall and stored until now.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: tomspott

                        Like any root veg a beet will begin to lose moisture the minute it comes out of the ground.
                        Fresher the veg the more moisture. Old dried out beets will not become less woody by cooking them longer.
                        Get fresher root veg.

                        1. re: tomspott

                          Try buying them from a local farmers market with the greens still on instead of from a regular big box supermarket. It does sound like an issue with old beets.