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The Best Ways to Prep + Cook Beets

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Don't be scared. Here's how to tackle beets, from the prep to the plate.


Beets from Food52

Let’s face our fears today and talk about beets. Commonly associated with aggressive sounding soups (borscht) and stained clothing, this vegetable gets a bad rap and is often overlooked at the grocery store. But after learning how to buy, prepare, and cook them without producing a crime scene in the kitchen, you may never pass up beets again.

Buying Beets

The red beet may be the most iconic, but two other types exist at the market -- golden and Chiogga -- offering different flavors and colors to explore. For something less earthy, less messy to prep, and much sweeter than the traditional red, go with the golden. For something with attitude, give the striped Chiogga a shot. They both keep their perky hues best when used raw.

Beets from Food52

Whatever type you pick, choose beets with firm bulbs and bright green leaves. (Pro tip: The smaller the size, the more tender the texture.) Once you’re home, store the bulb separately from the greens, leaving about an inch of the stem on the beet. And if you grab the wrong kind, don’t fret. Mix and match them freely in your favorite recipes.

Cooking Beets

Beets from Food52

Now for the most dreaded part of this topic, let’s talk stains. You can always opt for gloves or pressuring a friend to do the dirty work. Or you can follow these four commandments for a dye-free experience: 

To prevent ruined clothing: Leave your whites for Labor Day and wear an old apron.

To prevent unwieldy peeling: Drag the peeler or edge of a spoon towards you instead of away.

To prevent stained countertops: Grate beets over a bowl in the sink or place a large, old rag under the cutting board before slicing.

To prevent messy pans: Follow Amanda’s directions and close up each beet in foil before roasting. Place scrubbed beets on a long peice of aluminum foil; sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper; close up the beets into a foil packet; and roast until tender, approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

Roasting beets from Food52 Beets from Food52

Beets from Food52

If the unthinkable happens, treat the beet stain immediately. And if you’re out of cleaner, try using a piece of white bread or a paste made from equal parts of baking soda and water to remove the juice from clothing and carpets..  

Eating Beets

Smoked, pickled, caked, and carpaccio’ it multiple personalities or call it magical, but beets run the spectrum of savory and sweet. Watch them transform in these five dinners. Or experiment on your own with some of beets' favorite playmates: creamy cheeses, bitter greens, toasted nuts, or tangy acids. And don’t go topless; check out a recipe for those beet greens.

What are your favorite ways to cook beets? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: how-to & diy, beets, vegetables, healthy

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