TECHNIQUE TIPS: Charring vs. Roasting Peppers

Chelsea Community Kitchen features “Technique Tips” a blog post with tips for preparing produce.  Guest writers are encourage to contact us at chelseacommunitykitchen@gmail.com for info about submitting a potential post.

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How to make roasted peppers?

Television and popular recipe and cooking instruction sites, especially the fast-and-easy themed ones, frequently advise halving and cleaning out red peppers and baking/roasting them in a very hot [500degree] oven until they look charred, wrinkled, and, perforce, collapsed. They then proceed to bagging, cooling, peeling and slicing, followed by flavoring.

One hopes that most of the authors of these sources are actually aware that the original, traditional, and still common method for roasting peppers involves direct flame applied to the peppers’ outer skins. Presumably, they choose the oven method because it requires less attention and less cleaning up. In fact, both methods have real culinary roles that go beyond considerations of convenience.

Many people have trouble digesting peppers, mostly due to the acid/bitter bite of the skins. Both methods make skin removal easy, and both sweeten by heating. [It is possible to use a peeler to remove the skins, with the result good, but different.]

Traditional flame charring on a grill or indoor stove burner (electric included) allows the cook critical control over how much or how little the actual pepper flesh is cooked and, thereby, softened by the process. It can produce peppers that are freed of skin bitterness but not at all flaccid, with lively, toothsome texture, freshness, and flavor enhanced by the smoky/charred character added by the process.

With flame charring, cheaper green peppers are often actually preferable to more expensive, softer, sweeter red, yellow, or other tinted varieties.

Oven-charring produces a different result. Even a very hot oven cannot apply flame-hot heat directly to the skin. As a result, by the time the skin gets charred enough to provide some flavor and to peel easily, the pepper is usually cooked throughout, completely soft or flaccid, and devoid of lively acidity. However, peppers with these characteristics may be perfect for smooth soups, spreads, dips, certain sauces, and other pureed dishes in which their structure is intended to disappear. Also they work well for cooks who like sweeter ingredients.

But for pairings with garlic, ripe or salty cheeses, fresh herbs, and olives in traditional antipasti, savory salads, and sandwiches, the firmer fleshed, livelier, charred roasted peppers are far preferable.

Thank you to Peter di Lorenzi for this blog submission.  Submission topics are welcomed at chelseacommunitykitchen@gmail.com

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