These roasting tips and the recipe that follows are adapted from Six Basic Cooking Techniques: Culinary Essentials for the Home Cook by Jennifer Clair. Jennifer is the founder of the friendliest cooking school in New York City, developer of techniques that make home cooking easier and even more delicious, and an avid roaster of tender, caramelized vegetables.
Roasting vegetables is an easy and rewarding way to get the sweetest and deepest flavor out of them—livening up all types from potatoes to zucchini to fennel. While it is tempting to just toss all of your vegetables together on a sheet pan and put them in the oven, there are a few easy-to-follow rules that will help you coax the best out of them as they roast. Add these tips to your culinary arsenal and you'll roast perfectly seasoned, crisped-up vegetables every time.
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For the purposes of roasting, vegetables can be put into three textural categories: root vegetables, crunchy vegetables, and soft vegetables. If you want to roast more than one vegetable together on a baking sheet, you’ll need to choose vegetables from the same category, to ensure that they cook at the same rate and are done at the same time. If not, you’ll sacrifice the perfection of one vegetable over another. Another solution: Roast vegetables from different categories on different baking sheets, so you are able to control when you remove each from the oven.
Root vegetables: potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, beets, butternut squash (not a root, but texturally similar)
Crunchy vegetables: peppers, fennel, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower
Soft vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms
There are 2 golden rules when it comes to cutting up the vegetables:
1. They should be bite-sized (about 1-inch pieces), so you don't need a knife to enjoy them.
2. They should be uniform in size, so they will be evenly browned and tender as they cook.
'Tis The Seasonings
In a large bowl, toss together your bite-sized and uniform vegetables with enough oil to make them glisten (start with 3 to 4 tablespoons, and add more as needed). I like to use extra-virgin olive oil, which complements the flavor of just about every vegetable under the sun. This is the time to add any optional seasonings (except salt and pepper—not yet!). My personal favorites are chopped fresh rosemary, sage, or thyme; and smoked paprika, curry powder, or sumac.
It's All in the Arrangement
Take care to arrange the vegetables, cut side down (if applicable), in a single layer on your baking sheet, so they all have the chance to brown. Putting the vegetables cut-side down not only allows for the most veg-to-pan interaction, especially for rounded vegetables, it lets their starchy side caramelize to the fullest.
Don't Forget That S + P
Sprinkle kosher salt on the vegetables, holding your salting hand about twelve inches above the vegetables for even distribution, until they are lightly coated. Coarse kosher salt has just the right texture so you can see where every granule lands, allowing you to season accurately without over- or under-salting. If using pepper, add now in the same manner.
375° F is just the right temperature to roast vegetables to a caramel-brown hue. Once you slide your baking sheet into a preheated oven, don’t be tempted to stir the vegetables as they roast; you will disturb their developing crust. After 30 minutes, start checking that they are tender to touch and browned on the underside, returning them to the oven until they are both.
Let the vegetables rest at room temperature for at least 5 minutes before removing them from the hot sheet pan. This resting period allows them to naturally steam themselves off the hot pan, so you don’t leave their golden crust behind. Use a spatula made of thin metal or hard plastic to gently remove the vegetables, still intact.
- 1 pound small new or fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 red onion, peeled and cut into ½-inch thick wedges (with some of the root attached at the base to hold the layers together)
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 pinch kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
What are your favorite vegetables to roast up, and what do you season them with? Share with us in the comments!