Since becoming more purposeful about my meals, I’ve developed cooking goals. On the back of my meal rotation I write down a particular cooking skill (sautéing, roasting, etc.) that needs work. Later, I do some research to find out how I can improve.
I was frustrated that oven roasted veggies turned out differently each time I made them. Sometimes they would be melt-in-your-mouth good and other times a bit soggy. So I set out to discover the secrets that only annoyingly-good cooks know. Feel free to add your own tricks and tips in the comments.
1) Choose the right pan
Instead of a casserole-type glass dish or large roasting pan, use a large sheet pan with short (or no) sides. The allows moisture to escape so veggies are crispy, not soggy.
2) Cut veggies in uniform pieces
Denser veggies can be cut into 1-2 inch pieces but flowery veggies like broccoli and cauliflower can be a bit big bigger. This way, they cook more evenly.
3) Choose the right oil
This was a big area of confusion for me. I know different oils have different smoke points, the point where an oil smokes and starts to breakdown. Unrefined oils smoke point tend to be lower and more refined oils higher. A good quality extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 410, according to the olive oil source. It wasn’t clear to me if you roast at 450 (as stated below) that the oil actually reaches that temperature.
But to play it safe, if you are roasting at high temperatures you can pick an oil with a higher smoke point. Avocado oil and a more refined olive (called light or extra light olive oil), can do the trick. At lower temps a quality extra virgin olive oil is fine. See this list of smoke points here.
4) Use the right amount of oil
More is not necessarily better when it comes to oil and roasting vegetables. You want just enough oil so each piece looks shiny, not drenched and greasy.
5) Give those pups some room to breathe
Space out veggies, including potatoes, with room between. If they are crowded together it can too easily become a sog-fest.
6) Soak potatoes in cold water or pre-boil them
The first time I roasted potatoes I was less than impressed with the mushy factor. Then I learned about soaking the potatoes in ice-cold water first for 20-30 minutes to help remove some of the starch. Some cooking sites recommend boiling the potatoes first, which I have never tried.
7) Go for high heat
Most sites I visited recommend roasting at temps 450F or higher so the outside is crispy and the inside soft. But I think it really depends on personal preference. Play around with temps and what works best with you. I never roast below 400 though. For the difference between roasting and baking see this article on the Kitchn.
Knowing these little tricks means my roasting veggies always result in that melt-in-your-mouth goodness. I say, better than dessert. Do you roast veggies?