Vegetable

The Best Way to Roast Eggplant in the Oven

August 23, 2017

My roasted eggplant has a mind of its own. Some days, I pull it out of the oven and it's golden brown and pudding soft: It collapses under the weight of my hovering finger, before I even have a chance to prod. Other days, it's ornery—grey and dry, wrinkled and puckered. It's cooked (I guess?) but chewing on it is like gnawing on a sliver of car tire.

Of course, there are a lot of reasons for this inconsistency: the age of the eggplant; the amount of oil; the heat of the oven; the care taken to salt, rinse, and pat the slices dry (or not); and whether Mercury is in retrograde. But we went over all of the ins and outs of eggplant last summer. So this August I say, "Gimme that quick fix!"

Luckily, Yotam Ottolenghi, author, most recently, of NOPI and democratically-elected King O'Eggplants, has just the aubergine-roasting solution:

When roasting eggplants, I recommend placing a tray with water at the bottom of the oven to give out steam and prevent the eggplants from drying out.
Yotam Ottolenghi

Ottolenghi shares this tip in the headnote for the Eggplant with Crushed Chickpeas and Herbed Yogurt in Plenty More. For this recipe, large eggplants are cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices, then roasted at 475° F (!) for 40 minutes (!)—a very high temperature, a very long cook time.

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But, with the oven turned into a mini steam room, the eggplant is hydrated so that it softens and slackens (rather than dehydrates and seizes); the temperature is so high that the water will evaporate—protecting the eggplant for slumping to mush, and giving it an opportunity to brown—by the end of the cook time.

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Top Comment:
“ There are male and female eggplants and they cook somewhat differently. ”
— David K.
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You can apply the technique to any instance of eggplant roasting. If you find, when your timer dings, that your eggplant is soft but not as brown as you'd like, remove the tray of water and turn up the heat, or run the eggplant under the broiler, for a few minutes.

Good riddance, tough eggplant.


Purple & Precious

When does eggplant give you the most trouble? Air your grievances in the comments below, please.

6 Comments

David K. September 6, 2017
There are male and female eggplants and they cook somewhat differently.
 
Veronica L. September 1, 2017
Great idea! I'm making moussaka tonight!
 
Cassandra B. August 24, 2017
Brilliant!
 
judy August 23, 2017
Looking good. Instead of salting the eggplant, I now BRINE them. This from the guys at "Serious EAts". I don't like to salt my eggplant, I don't think they are bitter at all. But they do have a tendency to shrivel up and disappear, or soak up a ton of oil. They recommend bring them. so I have tried that a couple of times. EAsy to do: 1/4 cup kosher salt into a quart or so of water,<br />submerge eggplant (I put a small plate and a can on top to keep under water) for about 10 minutes. Pat dry. Amazing. They stay plump, don't taste salty, and no longer disappear into whatever I am adding them to, or shrink so much when I am simply roasting them for an appetizer! Egglant is a staple in my garden, and I am eagerly awaiting their ripening for wonderful eggplant treats! Baba ganouj anyone?!
 
4376ab August 31, 2017
I brine as well and found that it makes a world of difference. Eggplant parm is moist and luscious, instead of roof tiles mortared with marinara.
 
SassyinClifton August 31, 2017
Thanks for sharing your brining tip-- I'm going to test that out, as well as Ottelinghi's method. I have about five small to medium eggplants ready to go....