How to Cook Beets
Marinated, steamed, or pickled, beets have taken center stage on lunch and dinner tables around the country. Beets are beloved for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as for being high in vitamins and minerals. Roasting them brings out the root vegetable's sweetness; they're terrific on salads, pizza -- even simply on toast smeared with goat cheese. But in order to make a stellar dish, it's essential to prep for stellar roasting. You can use any variety of beet, and here's how to nail it every time:
6 Tricks for How to Cook Beets in the Oven or on the Grill
1. Choose your beets carefully
Even though roasting tenderizes these colorful root vegetables, saggy beets won't perform nearly as well as firm beets. When shopping, seek out fresh beets with firm, smooth skins and big, green leaves; it shouldn't give or squish when you squeeze it.
2. Don't get carried away with cleaning
Beets spend most of their lives underground, so it's not uncommon to find dirt on them. A good scrubbing is advised, but it's important not to scrub away the skin (or trash the greens, which are equally delicious all on their own and can be used in all sorts of other dishes.) During the roasting process, the skin helps retain flavor and moisture.
3. Foil is your friend
Individually wrapping each beet in foil creates a second skin for holding in the vegetable's best qualities, but it can also prolong how long roasting takes, since the oven's heat has to penetrate the outer layer of foil first. Roasting beets without foil isn't an entirely satisfactory solution either, because due to their natural sugar content, this ruby veg has a tendency to burn when roasted in a pan without protection.
Combining the two methods is the trustiest way to ensure a perfect roast in a reasonable amount of time: Arrange whole beets, tossed with olive oil and a pinch of salt, in a baking dish and then tent with foil. The captured steam will help cook them.
4. Give the grill a go
Here's how to grill beets. Although an oven is the obvious wintertime appliance choice for roasting, summery sandwiches and salads calls for beets from the grill. Roasting on the grill takes almost exactly the same as cooking in an oven, only instead of using a baking dish, you'll place the whole beets tossed in olive oil and a few pinches of salt directly on foil, fold the foil into a pouch and seal oiled beets within. It should take about 20 minutes to cook.
5. Timing is Everything
Roasting times hinge on variables such as the size of your beets and the strength of your oven: 45 minutes at 375 degrees is a decent rule of thumb, but it's important to check the beets every 20 minutes or so to ensure they don't burn or roast down to mush. Unlike a cake or pork barbecue, beets aren't ruined by a few extra peeks.
6. Remove the Peel
The skin that's so helpful during the roasting process is superfluous for serving. Fortunately, the peel slips right off the beet after it's cooked. But the peels must be removed soon after roasting--if the beet cools down, its skin will stick. To comfortably handle beets while they're still warm--and to avoid dying your fingers with purple juice--consider wearing plastic or rubber gloves and rub the beets with paper towels to remove the skins.
Cut in slices or wedges as desired.
Check out this step-by-step by Chef John for how to cook beets for salad: "Beautiful, sweet, twice-roasted beets and baked goat cheese with crunchy nuts and slightly bitter greens is my idea of an easy, healthy, beautiful fall lunch!"
More Ways to Cook Beets
Here's how to boil beets. You'll simply place beets in a saucepan with water, simmering until the beets are easily pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Drain them and cool slightly. Then peel and slice the beets. "This is a traditional German beet salad with a simple apple cider vinegar dressing and caraway seeds," says Naschkatze. "You can also make it with roasted beets, but in Germany the beets are usually boiled."
Here's how to dehydrate beets for beet chips in a food dehydrator or in the oven. You'll slice the beets as thinly as possible and arrange them in a single layer on food dehydrator trays. Sprinkle with salt and dehydrate for between 8 to 12 hours. No food dehydrator? Simply arrange beets on lined baking sheets and bake in the oven on the lowest temperature setting for 3 1/2 hours.
Here's how to cook beets on the stove -- a quick saute and simmer method. For this recipe, you'll peel and trim the beets and then shred them in a food processor. Then cook the shredded beets in hot butter until slightly softened, then simmer them in water until completely soft. "I never cared for beets until I tried them like this," says ddow. "Others who think beets taste too earthy also enjoy them prepared this way."
Here's how to braise beets in the oven. In this recipe, you'll slowly braise beets with seared short ribs, carrots, and onions. "I've never been a big fan of beets, but in certain things, like borscht, I love them," says Chef John. "With that simple soup as an inspiration, I thought the flavors would work nicely with the rich, fatty short ribs, and they sure did."
Here's how to to cook beet greens. You'll blanch the beet greens first, then coarsely chop and saute in a little olive oil with garlic. "Don't throw away those hearty green leaves that top fresh bundles of beets!" says Daryl Gerboth. "They have a flavor similar to kale. This simple recipe will will help you make the most of your fresh beets!"
Check out our collection of Beet Recipes.