A Better Way to Skin Charred Peppers for Chilis, Soups, and Stews

[Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt]

In some chili recipes, you'll start off with an assortment of fresh, whole dried chilies, but others—like our Chile Verde With Pork, Best White Chili With Chicken, and Crispy Braised Chicken With White Beans and Chile Verde—begin with an aromatic base made from fresh chilies, like Hatch chilies (if you're lucky enough to find them) or Poblano peppers. If you're going the fresh route, you'll want to char the peppers over an open flame or under the broiler to imbue them with a smoky flavor, place them in a covered container to let them briefly steam, and then slip off those tough, blistered skins. The same technique applies to a lot of soups and spreads that feature peppers prominently.

Step 3: Let Them Cool

No matter what you're making, though, getting those skins off afterward can be a pain, both figuratively and literally. That's especially true if you're charring a big batch of peppers. One trick to facilitate skin removal is to do it under running water—which does allow the skins to slip right off, but also leaves the peppers with a noticeably diluted flavor.

Step 4: Start Peeling

Instead, try dunking the charred peppers in a bowl of water or stock, then slipping the skins off while the peppers are submerged. It's almost as easy as doing it under running water, but you'll notice that, particularly if you're using a bowl of water, the liquid will begin to take on color from the peppers and their charred skin—all the flavor that would normally go down the drain remains in the bowl.

Once you've skinned all your peppers and removed them from the bowl, you can then strain the liquid and use it in your chili, soup, stew, or dip—or reserve it for a future application—for extra smoky pepper flavor.

Editors' note: We have edited this post to make clear that we do recommend letting the peppers steam slightly after they are charred.