Skinning Hazelnuts

An announcement of one’s profession often comes with a predictable series of questions. A mechanic in given various vocal interpretations of engine noises. A doctor is flushed with descriptions of odd body functions. And I, upon announcement of working as a pastry chef, was most commonly asked how to peel hazelnuts.

No joke.

A common task that seems to stump nearly everyone who tries to detach the papery skin from the nut, I was specifically asked how to complete the task without it being so difficult. My answer always started with confirmation that while yes, I was a pastry chef, and yes, I do work with hazelnuts often, and in large quantities, they are always a pain in the ass.

I have come up with a few steps to make it less so, but I’ll say it again, it’s an obnoxious task.

Toast the nuts at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. During this time, the nut swells. The brittle, papery skin will not stretch with the swollen nut and cracks under the pressure of the swelling. When the nut meats have toasted properly, turning a nice golden color and started to offer an obvious aroma, remove them from the oven.

Now walk away. This is the point I find most crucial to the entire process. The nut should be allowed to cool for at least half an hour before attempting to remove skin. In this time, the swollen nut meat will return to it’s original size, and the oils will cool. If you attempt to remove the skin soon after the nuts have been pulled from the oven, the oils will adhere the skin to the nut, making it nearly impossible to remove.

When the nuts are cooled, they can be rubbed together like ball bearings in your hands, or in a dish towel, and the skins should flake away. Some skin will remain, but don’t fret. Instead of seeing what you failed to remove, remember that the flecks of skin in any hazelnut dessert are a recognizable visual clue to the amazing flavor imparted to the dish by this particular nut.

27 Responses to “Skinning Hazelnuts”

  1. Does it matter how old the hazelnuts are? That is, does the skin come off of new-crop nuts or older (drier?) ones more easily?

  2. dana says:

    Andrew- I don’t have an answer for that. I have not come accross any reference to that question in my reading, nor judged the age of the nuts before I toasted them. Because I buy them either at a store, or through a wholesale account, I have no idea how long they spent off the tree before I see them, and I have never worked with nuts strait from the tree.

  3. Laurie says:

    We had quite a time skinning the hazelnuts for the galettes noisettes–but they were so delicious that I didn’t even mind, once I was eating them. I’m glad to have your tips for next time. Iris, plus my entire extended family we brought cookies to before Christmas, loved the galettes.

  4. Judy says:

    Much easier to use Julia Childs’ technique. Add 3 tablespoons of baking soda to 2 cups boiling water. Add the nuts and boil for about 3 minutes. Slip a test nut into a bowl of ice water. If the skin doesn’t come off easily, boil the nuts a little longer. When a test skin rubs right off, add the rest of the nuts to the ice water and peel with incredible ease. Dry the nuts or let them dry on their own and toast them in the oven.

  5. chiffonade says:

    This process is the most important culinary discovery since the first time someone proofed yeast. No matter how long I tousled hazelnuts in a kitchen towel, the skin would never be removed 100% and I was left with a skin-flaky mess. This method of skinning hazelnuts is 10x easier and 100% more effective.

  6. Garbie says:

    I have tried both baking and the soda technique. Bless Julia Child, her method is the easiest I,ve tried.

  7. Brad Warren says:

    I just tried peeling the nuts for the very first time. All I can say is thank you Julia!!! She gave this world a lot.
    ps Did you know she worked with the French underground during WW2?

  8. [...] Bob’s Red Mill.) You can make your own meal from fresh hazelnuts, but you need to peel. Here’s the drill. 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder 2 3/4 cups flour, sifted 2 tsp. [...]

  9. I am interested in skinning hazelnuts the julia Cild method BUT does the BAKING SODA effect the taste of the hazelnutS at all? I would appreciate a comment from someone who has tried this what appears to be a very good method MANY THANKS IN ADVANCE

  10. For my first time peeing hazelnuts, this worked perfectly! A pain in the ass, indeed.
    Also I found that once they were cool, it worked well to just massage the nuts with both hands. That got a big portion of the skins off right away so then I just had to remove bits and pieces from the individual nuts!

  11. *peeling hazelnuts. Not peeing. ;)

  12. joe says:

    The” Julia Child method” is not really hers at all. I saw the television episode that showed another chef teaching her this procedure. She was in (awkward) amazement…

  13. shannon says:

    i just tried the Julia Child method and it worked beautifully. Only took about 15 minutes total to peel about a pound of hazelnuts and did not alter the taste one bit. Kudos to Julia Child.

  14. k says:

    i wonder if you get the most hits for this question too!?!
    thank you so much for blogging it .))))))

  15. Claire says:

    When i was a kid we used to put them in a burlap bag and pounded the bag on a rock, they would come out peeled…

  16. Mary Jordan says:

    WOW!!! I was cranky all day, thinking about skinning hazelnuts…This was amazing! Worked perfectly…Thanks Julia and Judy ( I think)…XXXXOOOO

  17. Annie says:

    Contrarian view: Horrible experience with the boiling method. The skins don’t slip off that easily and it’s a hideous waste of water; the skins cling to your hands and I felt like Swamp Thing during spring molting season. Back to the toasting method!

  18. susie says:

    I’m with Julia!

  19. Barbara says:

    It’s not a waste of water at all if you skin the nuts in a bowl of ice water instead of under a running tap…
    The method is fantastic!Yay for Julia Child!

  20. elizabeth guittar says:

    Julia, my heroine, this is a great way to skin the nuts. Followed instructions exactly and it worked. I have always been a little intimidated by these guys but I love them. Between using a hammer to shell them, and the boiling water method to skin them, a piece of cake.

  21. Jane says:

    Just did the Julia Child thing. It did create a bit of a mess but that was because 100% of the skins were removed, and they’re messy. Much, much better than the awful teatowel method, which never works that well anyway.

  22. janet says:

    love Julia’s formula! – was done in no time- and like above was dreading the process all day- 1/2 hours later – hazelnuts are peeled and toasting in oven now = will turn it off soon and let them sit in the oven for another other or so

  23. [...] Heat the Hazelnuts in the oven for a bit and then peel their skins. (We found this on the internet as a best practice.) [...]

  24. [...] After attempting to toast and peel to no avail, I searched the interwebs and found this tip attributed to one of Julia Child’s cooking shows: Add 3 tablespoons of baking soda to 2 cups [...]

  25. JoAnn Pepper says:

    Variation of the Julia Child method…Bring 1 1/2 C of water to a boil. Carefully add 2T baking soda. It will foam up. Add 1 C hazelnuts. Boil 3 to 5 minutes. Test by running a couple under cold water. The skins should easily slip off when they are ready. Pat dry and roast 350 for 10 to 15 minutes. The nuts are full of flavor—easy and delicious!

  26. [...] out. You can buy pre-toasted hazelnuts but they are better if you toast them on your own. There are two methods for peeling the papery skin from the hazelnuts, either toasting them in the oven and then removing the peels or boiling them in water to remove [...]

  27. Maryanne says:

    Each year I get a small crop of hazelnuts from my tree. I have tried the boiling water & baking soda method which is very effective, but I have never been happy with the outcome. Even with roasting afterwards the nut seems a bit soft and lacks flavour. I’m with the pastry chef on this one. In the oven and cool for half an hour. A little more skin will remain but the nut seems to taste better, at least to me.

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