Roasting vegetables should be simple: Chop them up, toss them in oil, spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer, then cook—stirring if you remember—until tender and crispy. Easy, right?
Except when you take into account that there's no "right" way to do it. That's freeing, sure, but it can also be daunting: What temperature is the right temperature? How should you prepare your pans? Why do the broccoli florets burn while the stalks stay watery and crunchy?! And why do we have more questions than answers??????
Consider that the great cooking riddle here is one we've encountered before: How can you cook the inside and the outside of the food so it's exactly what you're looking for? With a chocolate cake, that means that the inside bakes through before the outside dries out; with seared meat, that means the crust browns and caramelizes before the inside turns gray and tough. For vegetables, steam-roasting ensures that the insides are tender, creamy and soft—velvety, even—before the outsides are blackened. To achieve such consistent roasting results, all you need to do is introduce one new element to your typical process—a little bit of water. Now you're not just roasting. You're steam-roasting!
Here's how you do it: For the first part of the cook-time, you pour a bit of water on the sheet tray and cover the whole thing with foil; your vegetables will tenderize in this moist environment. Once you remove foil and expose the vegetables to the dry heat of the oven, the exteriors will caramelize and brown.
Steam-roasting is the equivalent of a pre-roast parboil, which many chefs use to expedite the roasting process. But when you steam and roast on the same baking sheet, you save yourself time and equipment. It's how April Bloomfield achieves whole roasted carrots that are as creamy and soft as the slices of avocado—though neither mushy nor spineless!—in her Carrot, Avocado, and Orange Salad.
Try steam-roasting your next round of roasted potatoes, squash, or Brussels sprouts, keeping in mind that for vegetables with a higher water content—like cauliflower, broccoli, butternut squash, and peppers—you'll want to roast for less time than you steam (to give that moisture a longer chance to evaporate).
Ready, set, (steam) roast!
We've partnered with Miele to highlight one of our favorite ways to cook vegetables: steam-roasting! The technique is even simpler with a Miele combi-steam oven: Steam first, then roast in dry heat with the touch of a button.