When you roast your own peanuts, you can season to your taste.
Learning how to roast peanuts at home allows the cook to add any number of unique seasonings to an American favorite. Regulate the amount of salt and the preferred intensity of the flavors to taste, or take a first step in the process to make other items with a peanut base like organic peanut butter or candies.
There are four types of peanuts commonly grown in the U.S.: Valencia, Virginia, Spanish and runners. Virginia peanuts work well for roasting due to their large size and flavor. When it comes to knowing how to roast peanuts, a person needs to know whether or not to process the peanuts in the shell, what type of method to use for the roasting and what seasonings to use.
In-shell peanut roasting is one way to roast peanuts. Before peanuts can be roasted in the shell, they need to be cleaned. It is important to get any soil, stems, leaves or vines off the peanuts. The best way to do this at home is to scrub the peanuts with a scrub brush and clean water. Depending on the purpose for the peanuts, wet sand can also be used to remove any stains from the peanuts. Before moving on to the next part of the process, the peanuts should be allowed to dry. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the nuts need to contain less than 12 percent moisture to prevent dangerous molds from growing.
Some people prefer to remove the peanut shells prior to roasting the peanuts. Professional peanut farmers use machines, including horizontal drums, rotating beaters, rollers and oscillating shaker screens, to help them reduce the amount of time it takes to shell peanuts. To protect the kernels during processing, peanut farmers use size graders to sort the peanuts. After sorting, the peanuts pass through gaps in rollers designed for the appropriate size of peanut. The rollers crush the shell while allowing the kernels to pass through without damage.
To shell peanuts at home, nut cracking tools can be used. While it is possible to crack the shells by hand, shelling a large quantity of peanuts can cause cuts, scrapes or pain.
After separating the shells from the kernels, the peanuts should be sorted and the crushed shells, undersized peanuts and split kernels should be removed.
The skin should be removed from the peanut prior to roasting. A conventional oven, boiling water or a freezer can be used for this process. In a conventional oven, the peanuts need to bake at 350 F for 3 to 5 minutes. Once the peanuts cool completely, the skin easily slips off the peanut kernels. If boiling is the preferred method, the peanuts should cook in the water for 3 minutes. This process, called blanching, also loosens the skin, but the peanuts will need to dry out again. The freezer option requires the peanuts to freeze overnight or approximately 12 to 24 hours. The skins should slip right off the frozen peanuts.
The seasoning process for roasted peanuts depends on whether the peanuts are going to be roasted un-shelled or shelled. For un-shelled peanuts, the process works best if the seasonings are diluted in water, at which point the peanuts may be soaked in the mixture. Professional companies can force the seasoning into the shells using pressure, but cooks at home might want to consider using a needle to poke small holes in the shell. The shells trap the seasoning inside, so only a few holes should be made or the seasonings will escape before cooking. During the cooking process, the heat infuses the flavors into the peanut kernels.
To season shelled peanuts, it is not necessary for the seasonings to be diluted. It does help for some type of liquid base to be used to help the seasonings stick to the peanuts. Some common liquid bases include coconut oil, butter, cooking spray or honey. The amount of the base used depends on the overall flavor desired. When roasting shelled peanuts, the seasoning should be added after the peanuts roast. While people may expect some common flavors and seasonings for roasting peanuts, there is no limit on how to roast peanuts. The cook might want to consider using an original blend of spices to create a unique, new taste. Others might want to use common seasonings, which include:
With in-shell roasting, extra time should be allowed for the peanuts to roast. The American Peanut Shellers Association recommends an additional 30 to 35 minutes when baking un-shelled peanuts at 350 F in a conventional oven. Some people prefer to use a drum that they can rotate to ensure the peanuts roast evenly. Others use a spatula to turn the peanuts frequently throughout the roasting process. To cook un-shelled peanuts in a conventional oven, the seasoned peanuts should be spread out one-layer deep on a cookie sheet. Cooking times vary depending on personal tastes, so it's a good idea for the peanuts to be checked frequently rather than setting a timer for the full amount of time.
Shelled peanuts can be roasted in a conventional oven or in a microwave. To cook shelled peanuts in a conventional oven, a single layer of peanuts should be placed on a baking pan or cookie sheet. Virginia Favorites recommends a cooking time of 15 to 20 minutes for shelled peanuts roasted at 350 F. Microwaves drastically reduce the amount of time needed to roast peanuts. To prevent the peanuts from drying out during the roasting, the peanuts should be soaked in water. At this stage, salt may be added to the water to infuse flavor. Once thoroughly wet, all the peanuts can be placed into the microwave for 2.5 minutes. They should then be stirred before cooking for another 2.5 minutes. Cooking times vary depending on the wattage of the microwave.
Peanuts continue to cook even after being removed from the heat. One way to prevent the peanuts from cooking too long is to remove the peanuts several minutes early. Another method that works well to avoid over-cooking is to pop the peanuts into the fridge or freezer for a few minutes. The cool air will halt the roasting process.