I almost always have my oven running during my weekend prep hour. Something is roasting away, hands free, doing it’s thing, making magic. It’s usually vegetables, because having a stash on hand to reheat during the week makes for quick sides and ensures I am not forcing my family to eat salads all of the time.
Having roasted some type of vegetable(s) in advance of nearly every work week for the last few years, I’ve figured a few things out. Consider them anecdotal tricks of the trade.
Here are my top ten tips to perfect roasted vegetables.
The oven needs to be hot and actually at temperature. 425-450 is the sweet spot. And to ensure it’s maintaining temperature, I suggest you purchase a basic thermometer for your oven. I had been placing complete faith in my oven settings, assuming 350 was 350, except 350 was more like 325 and my 425 convection setting was more like 500. My oven’s a temperamental gal.
Use the convection setting if you have the option. Convection is like having a fan inside your oven, circulating hot air around the food. It helps to ensure the vegetables are cooked evenly, and creates that nice golden, slightly crispy exterior.
Use a metal sheet pan and avoid glass bakeware or anything with sides taller than an inch. You want as many sides of the vegetables exposed to prevent them from steaming.
Cut vegetables into equal size pieces. I’ve found this is most important for the root and winter vegetables and potatoes, which all take longer to cook in general.
Line your pan with parchment paper. This is one of my favorite tips. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems to help the vegetables brown a bit better, and makes for super easy clean up. Winner, winner.
Give them space. No surprise with this one. Crowd your pan and you’ll end up with soft exteriors and interiors, no golden, slightly crisp exterior, which is a bummer. Vegetables should be in a single layer and have at least a bit of personal space on most sides.
Use enough olive oil. Otherwise, again, they will just sort of steam themselves. Olive oil is the glue for seasonings and spices, but also helps to create that nice, roasted outside and tender inside. I typically use about 1 teaspoon per pound of vegetables.
Use fine sea salt. I realized, after many failed attempts, that my vegetables were bland or unevenly seasoned. Traditional Kosher salt is a bit too coarse and doesn’t evenly coat the vegetables. Most of it would end up in my hands after tossing. Using a fine sea salt (or table salt, in smaller amounts) works best. You will find you probably need to use less salt. I never give actual amounts for salt in these recipes because it’s just so highly variable. And I’m definitely a salt to taste person, so salt to taste! Err on the side of less before roasting. You can always add a bit more before serving.
You have endless seasoning possibilities. More often than not, I just stick with good old S&P. For spring and summer veg, I’ll use dried herbs, like thyme, marjoram, fennel. Root vegetables and sweet potatoes usually get tossed with warm spices, like paprika, cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, or coriander. In the summer, toss roasted tomatoes with fresh basil after cooking. Or, add some freshly chopped cilantro to a batch of curry roasted sweet potatoes. When I roast potato “fries” my family likes them best tossed with garlic salt and pepper. Like salt and pepper, you just need to play around with amounts and see what works for you.
Mind the time. Spring and summer vegetables, like squash, peppers, asparagus, beans and mushrooms, will cook in about half the time of potatoes and root and winter vegetables. On average, I cook the former for about 20-30 minutes at 400-425 degrees. The latter roasts for about 45 minutes at the same temp. Stir every 10-15 minutes to give all sides equal playing time.
The recipe for Perfect Spring and Summer Roasted Vegetables