Getting the Best Out of Beets

The warmth and humidity of summer has begun to dwindle and hand-in-hand with that departure goes the garden fresh tomato and freshly picked wild strawberries. The air is becoming cool and crisp, leaves are beginning to decorate the ground and I’ve already pulled out my gloves (Let’s be honest here, it doesn’t take much for me to wear gloves; they are one of my favorite accessories necessities)…all signs that autumn is here and it’s time to crank up the oven!

If you are a gardener and or avid shopper at your local farmers market, then you are surely seeing clear signs of autumn here as well. My tomato plants look very sad and are ready to be pulled, the tender lettuces are looking less than appealing, and there are no more cute little baskets of blackberries at my favorite stand. But now a new wave of vegetables is ready to take their place at the head of the table. Butternut and acorn squash, pumpkins, carrots, parsnips and beets are taking center stage in the garden, at the market, in restaurants and on my dining room table.

I enjoy beets prepared in many ways throughout the year…fried as chips, pickled, shaved thin or shredded on a salad, sautéed beet greens with garlic, the list goes on and on. My all-time favorite preparation for these colorful vegetables, however, is roasted. Slowly roasting them softens them into a tender treat and brings out their natural sugars.

The key to roasting beets is to remember “slow and low.” To bring out the best in your beets, and just about any dense food, you want to use a low temperature and allow cooking for a long period of time. This technique enables the natural sugars in beets to come out so that you can enjoy them on their own or as a vibrant addition to a recipe. Here is my technique for roasting beets….I’m sure you’ll delight in this as much as I do!

Tender Oven Roasted Beets

  • 6 large beets
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 6 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 head garlic, sliced in half
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Water

Beets 2Preheat the oven to 300°F. Gently scrub the beets without damaging the skin and remove the green tops. (Save the washed green and clean them from the thick ribs … they are delicious sautéed with sliced garlic and olive oil.)

Arrange the beet, thyme, bay leaves and garlic in an oven proof pan. I like to use a heavy cast iron pan for jobs like this, one that is enamel is great as it will resist staining from the beets. A heavy cast iron may take longer to heat but they hold heat more evenly than a stainless steel pan and will maintain a temperature more consistently. Sprinkle the beets somewhat heavily with salt and drizzle with olive oil, then add enough water to go about halfway up the beets.

Beets 3If your pan has an oven proof lid then use that, otherwise cover the pan with foil. Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven.
Roast for an hour, then check to see if they are done. The actual cooking time will depend on the size of the beets but these took about 1 ½ hours. To see if they are done roasting, carefully pierce with a fork into one of the beets. The fork should go easily into the beet, but you don’t want them to be mushy so be sure not to overcook them.

Once they are finished roasting, remove them from the oven and let cool slightly so that you can handle them without burning your hands. You’ll want them to still be fairly warm in order to easily remove the skin. If you have latex or similar gloves, you’ll want to wear them when removing the skin to avoid staining your hands. Remove the warm beets from the water and rub with a kitchen towel (one that you don’t mind staining) or paper towel to remove the skin. Enjoy your beets!

If you’ve grown accustomed to beets then you probably already have a few go-to pairings, and for someone that “loves, loves, loves” beets the pairings are countless, but here are a few ingredients that I find pair very well with beets.

  • Dairy: yogurt, sour cream, goat cheese and bleu cheese
  • Nuts: walnuts, hazel nuts, almonds and cashews
  • Fruits/Veggies: apples, oranges, squash, carrots and parsnips
  • Herbs and Spices: thyme, rosemary and dill; ginger, cinnamon and a cayenne
  • Condiments: Dijon mustard, honey and balsamic vinegar

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