The Easiest Way To Cut A Rutabaga Involves The Microwave

You might have walked right past rutabagas in the grocery store without even realizing it. These bulbous, purple vegetables resemble large turnips and are often tucked away in the produce section, visible only to the most savvy shoppers. They are thought to have originated in Northern Europe or Russia, and tend to be underrated — and underused — root vegetables in the United States.

One reason many home cooks find rutabagas intimidating is that they can be very difficult to peel and cut. Their awkward shape and tough, wax-coated skin can make it challenging to keep your hands safe when using a knife or vegetable peeler.

However, there's no reason to be intimidated by rutabagas, nor do you have to suffer when it comes to preparing them. The secret to a stress-free experience with peeling and cutting a rutabaga is a common appliance already found in most kitchens: your microwave. Simply poke a few holes along the surface of the rutabaga and place it in the microwave. After just a few minutes, that notoriously tough skin will soften and become easier to work with. 

Cooking rutabagas in the microwave

It's reassuring to know that enjoying a rutabaga doesn't require you to invest in a new gadget. All you need to do is start by poking a few holes in the surface of the rutabaga with a fork or the tip of a knife. Then, simply place it in the microwave and cook on high for two to three minutes. This step will soften the rutabaga, making it infinitely easier to peel and cut.

After microwaving, you have two options for handling the rutabaga. The first is quite easy, and the best choice for novice chefs. Using a larger chef's knife, start by cutting the rutabaga in half, then slice it into one-inch thick pieces. From there, you can use a paring knife to peel off its thick, waxy skin.

The second option is a bit more challenging, and requires more elbow grease and greater precision. After your rutabaga comes out of the microwave, hold it in one hand (you might want to use a towel if it's warm to the touch) and use a vegetable peeler in the other hand to remove the skin. This method can be used if you plan to prepare the rutabaga in a way that doesn't involve slicing or dicing.

Ways to cook and enjoy a rutabaga

Rutabagas can be intimidating not just because they're challenging to prepare, but also because many Americans are unfamiliar with how to eat rutabagas. However, once you've peeled, sliced, and diced your rutabaga, there are a plethora of ways to enjoy these hearty root vegetables.

The earthy, slightly sweet flavor of rutabagas comes alive when they're roasted. They can also be boiled and mashed, much like potatoes — but with an advantage. Rutabagas don't turn gummy when pureed.

A peeled rutabaga can also be shredded with a box grater and incorporated into a winter root vegetable rösti. The vegetable is a staple in Northern European cuisine; for instance, rutabaga casserole is common at Finnish Christmas celebrations, and you'll even find rutabagas in Cornish-style pasties in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Once you've mastered the art of peeling and cutting a rutabaga, the culinary possibilities are endless.