I can almost taste the sweet, crisp caramelization that I know awaits me as I empty my bowl of vegetables tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with spices onto the sizzling hot pan.
Mastering simple cooking techniques, like oven roasting, is one key to getting more vegetables into your diet. You don’t need long recipes, and you likely have most of the ingredients on hand — oil or butter, salt, and, optionally, any other spices you’d like. The possibilities are endless: rosemary and garlic, curry powder and turmeric with a touch of cayenne, simply salt, or any other combination you can imagine.
I love oven-roasted vegetables, and so does my family. It seems to be the only food that never leaves leftovers at my house.
But I haven’t always had such a good relationship with oven-roasted vegetables — I’ve learned plenty of lessons the hard way. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years.
Make sure your oven is hot.
Preheat to 425° F. You can even go hotter if you want to, but you have to pay closer attention to make sure they don’t burn.
Cast iron produces the most consistent caramelization.
The Maillard reaction is the chemical process that produces the wonderful flavor and beautiful browning on roasted foods. It is definitely possible to achieve this on other pans, but I find cast iron to be much more forgiving than other materials. You’ll still get some decent browning even if you crowded the pan a little more than you should have.
I have some cast-iron sheet pans that I love, but a skillet will also work fine. Put your pan in the oven while it’s preheating. It doesn’t have to be in there the whole time, but it needs to get good and hot. You want to hear the food sizzle when you spread it on the pan!
Be forewarned, some people don’t like the weight of a cast-iron pan. I’ve never found it to be a hindrance, but they are certainly heavier than a typical sheet pan. I have some rectangular griddle pans that weigh just under 7.5 pounds. You don’t want to be one-hand wielding them around the kitchen, but the weight shouldn’t be a problem for anyone who can pick up a pair of 5-pound dumbbells.
If your oven has a convection feature, use it!
Convection ovens are simply ovens that have a fan in them. The fan circulates the hot air which provides for faster cooking times and better crisping.
Air fryers are really just convection ovens on steroids. They circulate air quickly at very high temperatures to provide a crisp and crunch that mimics deep frying, with much less oil. Don’t spend money on a new gadget, just use your convection oven and roast some vegetables!
It’s better to be slightly overdone than slightly underdone.
This one is completely a matter of opinion, so feel free to ignore it. To me, however, roasted vegetables that aren’t quite done enough are very lackluster and sometimes mushy. If you are unsure as to whether they are finished, leave them for another minute or two. If they are truly done, it will be unmistakable. The aroma wafting from the oven, the beautiful coloring, and the sound of sizzling as you pull them out will tempt you to eat the whole batch right off the pan. I’ve done it before, and it was delightful.
Kathryn Arthur blurs the lines between farmer and chef. She is currently working to establish a sustainable farm in central Virginia and loves to write about her research in agriculture and nutrition as well as her daily adventures in the kitchen.