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The Built-In Oven Feature You're Not Using Yet

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You know how to position your oven racks for baking cookies (upper and lower thirds, please and thank you) and for broiling fish (all the way near the tippy top).

But what about tossing those racks aside and—in a move that will definitely feel counterintuitive and maybe a little unlawful—placing your sheet pan directly on the oven floor?

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Look at those crispy edges!
Look at those crispy edges! Photo by James Ransom

It's a technique that Carolynn Carreño, in her book Bowls of Plenty, recommends for achieving charred edges on carrots, brussels sprouts, and squash without having their insides slacken to mush. Carolynn picked up the trick from "a chef friend who had gone from working in restaurants with super powerful ovens to cooking at home."

"The oven floor provides the hottest, most even and direct heat possible," explains Carolynn, "which means you can get your vegetables nice and caramelized without overcooking them." She bakes two sheet trays of vegetables, one on the oven floor and the other on a rack in the middle, at 500° F (hot!) for about 20 minutes, switching their position halfway through. The result: tender but not spineless roasted vegetables with great color and natural sweetness. One more victory for us crispy vegetable fanatics!

And, pssst, Carolynn doesn't instruct that you line the pans with foil or parchment paper—and, for the most caramelized results, neither do we!

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Photo by Bobbi Lin

But an important P.S.: You will want to contact your oven manufacturer (or check out the manual—you saved that right?) before you place a baking sheet, especially a heavy one, on the bottom surface.

If you cannot place the sheet pan directly on the oven floor (maybe that's where the heating elements are), Carolynn suggests position the rack as close to the bottom as possible, and Food52er AntoniaJames advises "putting a pizza stone on the bottom shelf and preheating it for at least an hour at a very high temperature." (She also preheats her roasting pans!)

More of the run-down on roasting vegetables:

For Crispier-Edged Roasted Vegetables, Do *Less* (Bingo!)

For Crispier-Edged Roasted Vegetables, Do *Less* (Bingo!) by Sarah Jampel

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How to Get Browner, Crispier Roasted Vegetables

How to Get Browner, Crispier Roasted Vegetables by Ali Slagle

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Is There a "Right" Way to Roast Vegetables?

Is There a "Right" Way to Roast Vegetables? by Sarah Jampel

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We Asked, You Answered: The "Right" Temperature to Roast Vegetables

We Asked, You Answered: The "Right" Temperature to Roast ... by Sarah Jampel

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Have you ever taken advantage of your oven's floor? Or is it a scary, dirty territory? Tell us in the comments below!