Roasting vegetables is a good idea. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a beet or a green bean, a butternut or a floret of broccoli, the dry heat of the oven concentrates its flavor, softens it up, and coaxes out its sweetness. These universally tasty qualities make roasted vegetables a side dish that goes well with most meats and fish, and adds depth and comforting texture to soups, grains and green salads.
The same steps apply when roasting any veg. Once you understand the basics, you can work without a recipe, which is my favorite kind of cooking. Cut the vegetable into same size pieces. Coat them with oil or butter. Season them evenly with salt because salt tastes good but it also draws out some moisture. Add extra flavors if you want. Spread the pieces out on a baking sheet, and cook them in a hot oven until they are brown on the edges, and soft in the center.
Time is the main variable in vegetable cooking: some cook more quickly than others.
How Long to Roast Veggies: Fast, Medium and Slow
Fast: Juicy vegetables soften faster and need higher heat to caramelize. So, I cook things like asparagus, snap peas, okra, peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini pretty quickly at the high temperature of 450 F.
Medium: Vegetables like broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, and zucchini need a little more time in the oven, and in order to keep them from browning too much, I set the temperature lower to 425 F.
Slow: The most dense vegetables, like winter squash, sweet potatoes, yuca, potatoes or beets need to stay in a 425 F oven before they’re done. Flip over the pieces part way through cooking. Whatever is touching the pan cooks faster than what’s in the air. Flipping once is fine. Flip twice if you are fidgety.
Go for Same-Sizeness
Cut the vegetables roughly the same size so that each piece finishes cooking at the same time. Small pieces cook faster than big ones, so if you need to speed things up, make your florets tiny or your butternut cubes the size of playing dice. Basically, the heat will take longer to penetrate to the center of the piece, while the liquid evaporates and the sugars caramelize. For example, if you have some big and some small Brussels sprouts, halve the big ones so they are not still raw when the little ones are ready. Try to cut potatoes so that the chunks are basically the same distance from the edge to the middle.
Give Them Room
It’s important to spread out the pieces in a single layer on a sheet pan so that some of the liquid can evaporate without steaming the neighbors. Piled-up vegetables eventually brown on the bottom but they also steam and get too soft. Space promotes better and more even browning.
Salt and Pepper
When seasoning, you can really just let the creativity flow. The oil you choose adds its own flavor so consider that when choosing butter, or olive oil, or coconut oil. The oil is there to help conduct heat and add richness.
Add More Flavor
As for added flavors, try one or two spices at a time so you know what you are getting into. I season everything with salt for all of the normal reasons but then I also like to add an accent flavor with spices like garlic, cinnamon, sumac, chili powder or fennel, or cumin, herbs like rosemary, thyme or oregano. I sometimes add hot sauce, lemon, soy sauce, vinegar, or honey, salad dressing (that’s right). Just try to remember that liquids take some time to burn off and sweet flavorings burn, so watch your vegetables carefully and flip them more often.
Fast Roasted Vegetables
How to Know When Roasted Vegetables Are Done
Use time as a guide, especially if you are not sure if it is a fast or slow cooking vegetable. You’ll know when it is done when there are toasty, golden-brown corners as far as the eye can see, and when you can slide the tip of a knife easily into the very center of any piece.
Medium Roasted Brussels, Asparagus, and Zucchini
Slow Roasted Root Vegetables
- 12 ounces parsnips (peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks; thick ends halved) + 1 teaspoon coriander = 425 degrees, 40 min
- 1 pound butternut (peeled, seeded, 1-inch cubes) + 12 sage leaves, halved = 425 degrees, 40 min
- 8 ounces cauliflower (cut into bite size florets) + 3/4 teaspoon curry powder = 450 degrees, 30 min
- Bok choy (10 ounces, 3 baby bok choy split, well rinsed, and patted dry) + 3/4 teaspoons sriracha dotted on = 450 degrees, 15 minutes