“Eat your vegetables” was a common refrain in my childhood, most often uttered by well-intentioned parents who wanted me to learn healthy eating habits. As an adult, I try to self-enforce that rule to maintain a balanced diet. But the fact is this: some vegetables are easier to eat than others.
Take, for instance, roasted vegetables. Perfectly crisp, tender, flavorful roasted vegetables, I could eat by the bowlful. But over or undercooked, weirdly textured, mushy or flavorless roasted vegetables? No thank you.
Nobody needs to be subjected to poorly made roasted vegetables. Making perfect roasted vegetables is not difficult, but there’s a distinct art to guaranteeing a perfect outcome. Here, we’ll discuss the art and science of perfectly roasted vegetables by revealing some of the common errors that occur when oven roasting vegetables–and some easy ways to fix them. These tips will help ensure that you have flavorful results every time.
Why roast vegetables? Well, obviously vegetables are healthy. They’re low in fat, high in fiber, rich in vitamins and minerals. But what makes roasted vegetables in particular so great, as opposed to, say, boiled or steamed? There are a few reasons.
- Roasted vegetables retain nutrients. Some of the vitamins in vegetables (such as vitamins B and C) are water soluble, which means that when submerged in water, nutrients can seep out of the veggies.
- Roasted vegetables are flavorful. Roasting vegetables in the oven with simple seasoning–salt, pepper, and olive oil, for instance–requires little prep work, yet you reap rich, flavorful results. From earthy sweet potatoes to mellow eggplant to sweet carrots, roasting is an effective way to bring out the natural flavor of vegetables.
- Roasted vegetables have a pleasing texture. Roasting vegetables in the oven gives them a unique texture: a soft, tender interior, and a slightly crispy exterior. This contrast in textures gives the palate the same satisfying crunch and yield as fried vegetables such as french fries, but with a fraction of the fat.
- Roasted vegetables can be prepared with very little fat. You can control how much fat goes into the dish. Roasted vegetables taste great with a little bit of olive oil, but it is not, strictly speaking, necessary. You can add as much or as little oil as you are comfortable with in your eating plan.
Common mistakes when roasting vegetables. These are some of the common issues people have when roasting vegetables. Luckily, all of these errors are easy to remedy.
You don’t add an appropriate amount of oil. Roasting vegetables with a drizzle of olive or other oil is a classic presentation. However, to add the same amount of oil to every vegetable would be a mistake. Different vegetables require different amounts of oil.
Think about the difference between a floret of broccoli and a slice of eggplant. If you drizzle olive oil on the broccoli, it will rest on the surface, which is not extremely porous. This means that you don’t need to add a lot of olive oil. However, a slice of eggplant, or other more porous vegetables, will require more olive oil to impart a flavor on the veggie.
Tailor the amount of oil to the vegetables you are roasting. If mixing vegetables, add a little more olive oil to the more absorbent vegetables.
You don’t season your vegetables. If you don’t season your vegetables, they might come out looking great, but with a taste that is lacking. Without seasoning, roasted vegetables will be bland and boring.
Sprinkling your vegetables with seasonings will help ensure that they taste as good as they look. Salt and pepper are classic, but you can also experiment with flavors. Carrots with rosemary, eggplant slices with za’atar spice, or yams with piri-piri spice are some examples of the creative directions you can go with spices.
You don’t cut the vegetables evenly. If you cut vegetables any and every which way, those inconsistent pieces might look artistic, but they won’t cook evenly. Smaller pieces may turn black and burnt before the larger pieces have even browned.
Cutting your vegetables with a sharp knife to around the same size will help ensure that they cook evenly in the oven.
You cook them too slow. Low and slow is a method used for cooking a lot of different foods–but roasted vegetables are not one of them. If you bake too long and at too low a temperature, your vegetables will be mushy and unremarkable. For the perfect crispy exterior and tender interior, use a hot oven to roast your vegetables.
Cooking vegetables in a preheated 400 degree to 450 degree oven will ensure that you have a crispy exterior and a tender yet not mushy interior. Cook times will vary; keep an eye on the vegetables for visual signs of doneness such as browning on top.
You put too many things in the pan. A crowded pan is sort of like a crowded room full of people. Even the most basic functions become difficult. When the pan is crowded, there are a lot of pieces that are overlapping and touching that will be insulated from the heat, and your cooking results will not be even.
For best results, use a large pan that can easily accommodate all of your vegetables–or break it up into two batches of roasted vegetables. They don’t need to have tons of space all around, but do make sure that they can lay in a single layer.
You don’t move the vegetables. Halfway through roasting your vegetables, remove the pan from the oven and stir things around on the tray. This will ensure that everything will brown evenly. While different vegetables may have different roasting times, most vegetables will roast comfortably between 30 to 40 minutes.
It’s a pretty safe bet that if you give things a stir around 15-20 minutes into the roasting, it will help to keep the cooking even for all of the vegetables.
You use a deep baking dish to cook them. Think that using a casserole style dish is great for roasting vegetables? Well, it will get the job done, but not as well as a baking sheet or rimmed baking pan. The higher walls of pyrex-style baking pans will actually capture the steam emitted from the roasting vegetables, retaining it and keeping the vegetables from becoming crisp.
Evenly spaced veggies on a flat or rimmed baking sheet will ensure better coverage and toasting of the veggies.
You cover them right after cooking. Let your roasted vegetables cool before you cover and store. The heat emanating off of them can get trapped in airtight packaging, creating steam which will make your veggies soggy.
Roasted vegetables are a fantastic addition to your cooking repertoire, whether you’re pairing them with perfectly cooked pork chops or using them as a vegetarian main dish. Attaining perfect roasted vegetables is accessible to cooks at all levels. As long as you follow these simple rules, you’re well on your way to some delicious dishes.
Do you roast vegetables often?