|Let’s talk technique. As in how to properly roast vegetables for maximum flavor. Sounds good? Good, because every cook should know this easy technique for cooking the best vegetables. We use many cooking techniques in the kitchen, but roasting may be my favorite because it’s easy and has the highest benefits. Your oven does most of the work so there is minimal clean-up. This technique is the perfect choice for cooking tender portions of meat, poultry, and fish and vegetables.
But today, let’s talk just about How to Properly Roast Vegetables.
Why? As I said earlier, roasting is easy; your oven does the work. Clean up is a breeze since there are no splatters around the cook top You don’t have to stand over the cook top. And, the best reason: roasting vegetables produces maximum flavor, regardless of the type of vegetable.
What? Roasting is a dry cooking technique, as opposed to wet techniques like braising, stewing, or steaming. Dry, hot air surrounds the food, cooking it evenly on all sides. Depending on the food you’re preparing, you can roast moderate or high temperatures.
1. You want to start with an oven that’s preheated to at least 375° – 400°F. Any heat under that and you’re baking, not roasting. Vegetables usually need a moderate temperature of 375° F. so that internal water content evaporates quickly, concentrating the flavor without the food browning too deeply or becoming too soft. Higher heat for vegetables causes the natural sugars to caramelize on the surface, resulting in intense flavor, appetizing color and chewy texture. Higher heat will cause deeper external browning and crispier exterior.
2. Vegetables should be the same size and shape for even cooking. While the oven preheats, prep the vegetables. Wash and trim them first, peeling or cutting off stems and tails, removing any blemishes, and removing skins. Then cut them into pieces roughly the same size. The smaller the pieces, the quicker the vegetables will roast; the larger, the longer.
3. Toss the cut vegetables with olive oil in a large bowl, really getting in there with a spatula or even your hands, making sure the pieces are coated on all sides. For roasting, any good-quality oil will do.
4. The best equipment is a rimmed, heavy-duty baking sheet. (This is one of those 10 Essential Tools You Need for the Holidays.) I like to line mine with foil for easier clean-up. You can also use parchment paper or nothing at all. A deep roasting pan actually keeps the heat from surrounding the vegetables. Save it for your turkey, chicken or roast.
5. Season the vegetables. A vegetable’s own natural and unadorned flavor will emerge when seasoned with just kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. But experiment with other seasonings and herbs, too. Carrot is deepened with thyme, zucchini is brightened by lemon. Dried herbs are fine, preferable even, since fresh herbs can burn in the oven. Additions like onion, garlic, bacon add more flavor, color, and texture.
6. Arrange the vegetables on the baking sheet in one layer, leaving space between the pieces so the oven’s heat can surround the vegetables.
These two pans are overcrowded, which will result in longer cooking time and less browning. Use two sheet pans if you need to.
7. About halfway through the roasting time, give the vegetables a quick toss, redistributing the pieces. After that, check and toss every five minutes or so, until they’re done.
8. The vegetables are done when their centers are soft and creamy and their outside edges almost crisp and beginning to caramelize. Allow 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the vegetable and the oven temperature. Vegetables like asparagus will take less time than dense vegetables, such as Brussels Sprouts, butternut squash or potatoes. Size matters: thin asparagus shouldn’t be roasted, but the thicker variety is perfect. Whole Brussels Sprouts will take longer than Brussels Sprouts that have been halved. For potatoes, baby new potatoes and fingerlings are the best size. Whole carrots will take longer than carrots that are diced and large dice will take longer than small dice.
Pretty easy, huh?
Here are vegetables that are great for roasting:
Asparagus (thick stem varieties) Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Beets, Carrots, Cauliflower, Eggplant, Garlic (technically not a vegetable, but so good), Green Beans, Mushrooms, Okra (yes, you Southerners, it’s delicious), Onions, Potatoes, Shallots, Squashes (Butternut, Acorn, Zucchini). Did I miss one?
Fall and winter are great times to roast vegetables. I hope you’ll try roasting.
Next Wednesday I’ll share the last course in our Fall Festive Dinner, dessert, so be sure to come back to my Bluesky Kitchen.