Roast Those Veggies Right

Roasted vegetables. They seem so dang easy to make; but they can be fraught with so many missteps. They can burn. They can be undercooked. They can stick to the pan like glue - and get destroyed when you go to remove them. So, is there a way to get them right every time? Well, if you follow just a couple of these rules you should be able to rock just about any roasted veggie. So, here you go. Some keys to great vegetable roasting.

Even Steven

Cut your veggies evenly. What happens if you don’t is that some pieces will cook faster than others and you’ll be stuck with pieces that are either overcooked or undercooked. And, no, they don't have to be perfectly the same size. Just shoot to make them about the same size and you should be okay.

Nice Oily Coats

Be sure to coat the pieces evenly and thoroughly. One key to a great roasting is to get the oil on every surface of every piece. I know some people like to dump all the veggies in a pan, drizzle oil over the top, and roast away. That can cause a few problems. One, you’ll miss some pieces and they won’t brown up well. Two, the drizzled oil can pool in the pan and get overheated and burnt. Yuk.

So, what’s the best oil to use? The classic way is to use olive oil. And, no, it doesn’t have to be that super-expensive olive oil. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be. That expensive oil won’t add much taste to your dish when it roasts. Save that good stuff for fresh uses like salads. The other thing I’d suggest is to try some different oils (just watch their smoke points). Try peanut oil, toasted sesame oil, etc. These can add some different flavors to your veggies, and you might find some interesting new flavors.

How ‘bout That Pan?

Does the choice of a pan matter? Yes and no. It’s best to use a metal pan with three sides. The sides should be rather shallow, but it can help to have the sides just high enough to help reflect the heat back onto the veggies. 

A sheet pan like this works great.

A sheet pan like this works great.

Have you ever had your roasted veggies stick to the pan? That can happen very easily and just mess things up in a big way. Properly oiling those veggies will help keep things unstuck. Another trick is to use something that will keep the veggies from sticking. Parchment paper is a great choice. (You can even buy them in pre-cut sheets.) Using a Silat is another option.

Another thing that works for me is to keep things moving - but not too often. Allow a side to brown and then stir them. Do that a few times during the roasting process and you’ll have nice, evenly cooked (unstuck!) veggies. 

Overcrowding NOT Allowed

Probably the biggest mistake people make (yes, me included!) is overcrowding the pan when you roast vegetables. I am guilty of using every square inch of space and squeezing as much into my pan as possible. Bad call! It's best to allow your food to have a little elbow room. That helps the air circulate around them which helps them cook easily. Corwding them makes them steam instead. NOT what you want when you're roasting.

Why the heck do I do that? Because I want to roast a bunch at once of course! So, why not just use a second pan to allow space around the vegetables? Ummmm...no answer. It's simple, but I often don't think about it. Trust me. If you have a lot of veggies to roast go to a second pan and let them all have some space.

Watch the Clock

The key (duh) is not to overcook. No one's ever said "Those burnt, mushy vegetables are my favorite!". So what's the "right" time and temp? Of course it varies. For most vegetables 400°F-425°F is about right. And they can take 30-40 minutes. But, I'd recommend that you start checking them at 15 minutes. (You need to stir them around anyway.) And if they're not ready, just give them about 5 minutes and check them again. Oh, and by the way, when I say "check" them I don't mean you should keep opening your oven every few minutes. Doing that let's a certain amount of heat escape and your roasted vegetables won't cook well. Just glance in the oven window. And when you see them start to brown and develop a bit of char around the edges. That char gives the vegetables that great roasted flavor. When you pull them out they should look nicely browned (kind of "toasty") and should be tender.

I hope that helped. Roasting veggies is a favorite of mine all year long (especially as a vegetarian). But this time of year when our attention turns even more toward the nice root vegetables like winter squash, potatoes, etc. the smell and the taste of roasted vegetables just seems to take on a whole new life. If you've never tried it, try it now. It's easier than you think. If you have been there/done that, do it again. Maybe see if you need to make a few changes to perfect them! Enjoy!

If you liked this post, you may also want to check these out:
- An Homage to Fall Cooking
- Fall in Love With Acorn Squash

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