Roasting is our absolute favorite way to prepare vegetables here at To Taste. While many think of roasting as a fall and winter cooking technique, we are huge proponents of roasting vegetables year round! Roasting promotes caramelization and creates a sweet, crispy exterior that can turn the most mundane of vegetables from bland to irresistible! Plus, roasting is an incredibly easy culinary technique to master. Keep reading to learn how to roast vegetables in the oven, and as always – made to your taste!
What is Roasting?
Roasting is a dry-heat culinary technique that uses an oven. It is considered a dry-heat method because it relies on circulating hot air and/or fat rather than hot liquid to cook foods. In a hot oven, air circulates around foods, encouraging them to produce a golden exterior and tender interior. Roasting vegetables retains nutrients better than other cooking methods, such as boiling or frying.
To roast vegetables, you need:
- High temperature
- A flat pan
- Cooking fat/oil
- A moderate amount of time
Let’s explore each of these requirements in To Taste’s Rules of Roasting.
Rules of Roasting
We created a fun acronym – ROAST WELL – to help you remember our rules of roasting! Follow these rules to perfect your vegetable roasting skills.
Set your oven to a high cooking temperature to achieve optimal caramelization. If you aren’t sure which temperature is best, 400ºF usually works well. In general, anywhere between 400ºF and 500ºF is considered a roasting temperature.
Broccoli is an exception for us; we prefer to roast it at 375ºF for best results.
There are also slow-roasting methods that require lower temperatures, but this article focuses on how to achieve crispy roast vegetables.
Don’t be scared of oil! Healthy oils add nutrition, satiety, and great flavor to roasted vegetables. Make sure every piece is thoroughly coated with oil; it’s better to use a little too much than not enough. Use oils with high smoke points, such as canola or avocado oil. Add salt, pepper, spices, and hearty herbs along with the oil.
If you want to roast an assortment of vegetables at the same time, select ones that are similar and will cook in the same amount of time. For example, roast an assortment of root vegetables together or combine a variety of summer squash.
If you want to mix vegetables with different cooking requirements, begin by roasting the vegetables that require more time, and then adding the vegetables that cook faster later. Another option is cooking the vegetables separately and combining when done.
Skip Pan Liners
For best caramelization and browning, place the oil-coated vegetables directly onto the pan. Although parchment paper and foil make clean-up easier (we get it!), your vegetables won’t be quite as delicious. Place vegetables with peels cut side down to ensure the interior gets nicely browned and crispy.
Traditional Sheet Pan
When roasting, be sure to use a traditional sheet pan, with no more than a 1-inch rim along the sides. Deeper dishes cause vegetables to steam rather than roast – not optimal when trying to make crispy veggies! A metal pan also ensures browning.
Wash and Dry
You should always wash fresh produce before eating or cooking, but another important step when roasting is to make sure your vegetables are dry. Water generates steam, and again, we want to avoid steam to ensure the vegetables turn brown and crispy.
This is also why we don’t love to roast vegetables from frozen; it can be done, but the results are drastically different.
It is important to make your pieces approximately the same size to ensure even cooking. Small pieces cook faster than large pieces. An exception to this rule is cauliflower; we actually love the small bits that get extra dark and crispy!
Learn how to cut 10 common vegetables in our knife skills 101 course!
Spread the vegetables out on a sheet pan and leave plenty of space around each piece. If you overcrowd the pan, the vegetables will steam. Are you noticing a trend here? Steam is the enemy when trying to create crisp, roasted veggies!
When in doubt, use two pans. Yes, that might mean more dishes to clean, but we promise that it will be worth it!
Let them Cook!
Cooking requires patience. While it can be tempting to pull the vegetables from the oven once they are soft, make sure that they get that nice, brown exterior. For longer cooking vegetables, such as potatoes, you can stir them halfway through the cook time to brown on all sides, but it’s not totally necessary.
For quick-cooking vegetables, you might not have time to stir. Once the side touching the pan browns, the vegetables are usually soft enough to eat.
How Long to Roast Vegetables
We often get asked “how long does it take to roast ____ at ______ degrees.” The answer? When it’s done! There are many factors that determine how long vegetables need to cook in your oven. Let’s take a look.
The more dense the vegetable, the longer it will take to cook. For example, white potatoes take much longer to roast than zucchini.
Denser vegetables require lower roasting temperatures; 400ºF or 425ºF is usually ideal. If you use too high of a temperature, the vegetables will get too dark on the outside before they are done on the inside.
Natural Sugar Content
The higher the sugar content, the more caramelization will occur. Sweet potatoes have one of the highest natural sugar contents of all the vegetables which is one of the reasons why they are so delicious! The sugar content will make them darken faster, so roast sweeter vegetables at lower roasting temperatures; again, 400ºF to 425ºF.
Vegetables with higher water contents, such as yellow squash and zucchini, cook quickly and can easily steam if you roasted at too low of a temperature. This will cause them to become mushy and not achieve a nice golden-brown color. Use higher temperatures – around 450ºF – and shorter roasting times for these vegetables.
Size of Pieces
While the size of the piece will not really affect the cooking temperature, it will affect the cook time. For example, if you cut red potatoes into halves rather than quarters, the cook time will be longer. In a hurry? Just make smaller pieces! Also keep in mind how you’re going to serve the final product. If tossing into a grain salad, consider making smaller pieces.
When cooking vegetables with higher water contents, consider cutting slightly larger pieces to ensure browning before they get too soft.
Your Individual Oven
All of our ovens cook slightly differently; my oven tends to run hot, but your oven could be older, newer, faster, or slower.
Additionally, the pan you use can cook foods differently; a dark pan cooks food faster than a light pan.
These are some of the reasons why it is difficult to provide definite cook times for recipes. Use your sense of sight, smell, touch, and taste to determine doneness.
Now that we have reviewed the factors that affect time and temperature, let’s take a look at the basic steps.
How to Roast Veggies – Basic Steps
Regardless of the vegetable you choose the roast, the basic steps are the same:
- Preheat oven. Use a temperature between 400ºF and 500ºF.
- Cut vegetables into evenly-sized pieces.
- Thoroughly combine oil and seasonings in a bowl. Toss with vegetables, thoroughly coating each piece. Use ~ 1 – 2 Tablespoons of oil per pound of vegetables. If you want fewer dishes to clean, toss the vegetables with oil on the pan, then sprinkle with seasonings; the seasonings just won’t be as perfectly distributed.
- Spread in a single layer on a sheet pan, being careful not to overcrowd. When in doubt, use 2 pans! Place the cut side down for brown and crispy veggies.
- Roast until golden and the edges are crisp. Stir denser vegetables halfway through cooking for even browning.
- Optional: Once cooked, sprinkle with freshly chopped herbs and/or lemon juice.
If you are looking for more specific time and temperature recommendations, below is a guide for some of our favorite vegetables to roast. Note that times are approximate!
Hopefully, you now understand how to roast vegetables and will feel confident practicing this technique at home! What is your favorite vegetable to roast? Let us know in the comments below!
To YOUR Taste!