Roasting vegetables is my favorite cooking method for enjoying nearly any type of vegetable. It might not be the fastest way to get them perfectly cooked, but the hands-on time is minimal.
5 ways to cook vegetables
In the cooking world, there are 5 ways to cook your vegetables. They are: blanching (or steaming), searing, braising, glazing, and roasting. Each technique has its own neat way to cook and change the color, feel, and flavor of the vegetable. Not every vegetable works for every type of preparation, but roasting lets you use practically any vegetable. Ok, spinach might not be the best idea, but you get what I’m saying.
The best roasted vegetables start at the grocery store. Yes, it’s called freshness. Some vegetables’ freshness is easy to judge, others not so much. A limp carrot is not as fresh as one that snaps apart when trying to bend it. The same goes for asparagus. When it comes to broccoli or cauliflower, check the stem and make sure there’s no browning around it. If you use mushrooms, make sure there’s no moisture in the package, which could mean they’re about to get slimy and yucky. Generally, look for firm vegetables with good color and no browning on cut sides.
How to roast vegetables
Generally, any vegetable is roastable. There are many different ways to accomplish a good roast, but for the perfect roast you have to follow a few simple rules.
When you roast vegetables, the goal is to brown the exterior and achieve caramelization (fancy word for burning the vegetables’ natural sugars) while keeping a crisp interior.
But be aware, over-roasting vegetables will turn them bitter. Like, remember the first couple times you tried to sautée garlic and the oil was too hot, and the garlic turned brown and literally inedible….yeah, bitter.
If you know what you’re doing and plan on staying right next to the stove, go ahead, crank up your broiler to 500°F, broil your vegetables, and have the smoke detector go off because of some forgotten grease build-up on the bottom of your oven.
For the rest of us, let’s just use 425°F, take a little more time but less sweat, and still achieve really delicious roasted vegetables. And, bonus: we won’t have to find the step stool to reach the smoke detector “off” switch.
Preheat your oven and your metal rimmed baking sheet to 425°F. Note: Use a metal baking sheet with a small rim. Glass dishes do not conduct heat evenly and rims higher than 1/2“ will prevent the desired airflow from reaching the bottom of your veggies along the edges.
After cleaning, trimming, and possibly chopping your vegetables, toss them in a large bowl, pour some extra-virgin olive oil over, and add salt. Push your shirt sleeves back and use your hands to tenderly massage the vegetables. This will guarantee even distribution of the oil. This is important. Oil is better at distributing heat than just hot air, and simultaneously protects the vegetables from shriveling and becoming leathery.
Toss vegetables in a single layer on preheated baking sheet. They’ll start sizzling on contact. Make sure not to crowd the vegetables. One layer only. If they touch each other, they will steam and not roast.
I like to use multiple small baking sheets for different vegetables. Beets, for example, can take up to an hour (depending on size) to get tender inside, so they go in the oven way ahead of the baby carrots, etc. Use common sense or the chart below 😉
Speaking of beets…If you leave some of the beet stalk on and roast them with the skin on until fork tender, peeling them is really easy and you won’t end up with a stained cutting board. But, yes, your fingers will still get stained.
How to serve
Once your vegetables are done roasting, taste, re-salt as necessary, and serve. Or drizzle some freshly squeezed lemon juice over them. Roasted vegetables love a splash of acid. Or melt some garlic herb compound butter over them. Or sprinkle with your favorite cheese. Or, if you’re talking asparagus, dunk in homemade hollandaise sauce.
I roasted some cauliflower and carrots the other day and decided to top them with some feta cheese and drizzle with this very easy and tasty vinaigrette:
- 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
- Parsley for garnish
Approximate Cooking Times
Each oven is different, but there is one thing they all have in common: the back side is hotter. So when you flip (toss or turn, same as you do during a sleepless night), your vegetables halfway through the cooking time, rotate your baking sheet as well. That’ll help to achieve an even roast.
How do you know when they’re done? Poke them, taste them. Figure it out. You can do it! They should be savory and nutty with a crispy interior.
Asparagus – 20 minutes
Beet (whole, skin on) – 60 minutes, they were big!
Bell Peppers – 20 minutes
Broccoli – 25 minutes
Brussels Sprouts (halved) – 25 minutes
Butternut Squash – 30 minutes
Carrots (cut into 1” chunks or baby carrots) – 30 minutes
Cauliflower (cut in 1” slices) – 25 minutes
Green Beans – 20 minutes
Onions – 35 minutes
Potatoes – 45 minutes
Sweet Potatoes – 30 minutes
Yellow Squash – 20 minutes
Zucchini – 20 minutes
How to roast vegetables doesn’t require a recipe box. It’s a general “how to” kind of article. If you like that and want more of these, let me know. And let me know what it is you want to learn. Knowing how to prepare, cook, and serve different foods, and understanding why it works will make you a much better cook than just following a recipe.
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