When James Beard Award-winning author Samin Nosrat, host of the Netflix show Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (inspired by her brilliant and best-selling cookbook of the same name), offers cooking tips, you listen. Here’s what Nosrat has to say about the fourth element, heat, and how you can master it in order to make perfectly roasted vegetables, every time.
“Heat. It’s the element of transformation. Heat takes food from raw to cooked, flabby to firm, pale to golden brown,” Nosrat said. “Sizzles, splatters, crackles, steam, and aromas are all the results of applying heat to food. And once you understand how heat works, you can be confident that whatever you cook will taste great.”
If that’s a little too abstract for you, and you’re eager to get into the nitty-gritty of which oven temperature works best for what type of veggie, whether or not to use parchment paper (which undeniably makes clean up easier!) and more, don’t worry: Nosrat has plenty of detailed advice about how to roast vegetables.
The biggest lesson she wants to impart is that you need to give roasting veggies plenty of space. “What freaks me out is when people pack so many onto the pan that there’s no room for steam to escape, and that’s when you get steamed Brussels sprouts,” said Nosrat.
Another reason it’s important to roast vegetables in a single layer with space between each green bean, or whatever it is you’re roasting, is that you want to make sure every bit of vegetable comes in contact with the pan.
Nosrat also believes it’s best to roast each type of vegetable on its own sheet pan. If you skip this step, you end up combining veggies with all kinds of different characteristics, like different amounts of sugar and water. “I say use as many pans as you have vegetables, and if that’s too many pans, then at least split it half and a half so that you can remove the broccoli or the butternut squash before the other thing burns.”
Last but not least, a note about oil. “A lot of times people just drizzle oil on top,” Nosrat said, “but you want the oil between the food and the pan. That’s how you get that crisp bottom edge.”
Armed with that sage advice, let’s dive into the specifics of how to roast vegetables, from root veggies to softer vegetables like bell peppers and mushrooms.
How to Perfectly Roast 5 Different Kinds of Vegetables
Roasting vegetables is one of those basic cooking skills that is endlessly useful. Once you master the tricks for roasting veggies we outline below, you’ll be able to transform all kinds of vegetables—from Yukon potatoes to beech mushrooms—into delectable treats so tasty, you’ll want to eat them straight out of the oven. Just be careful not to burn your fingers!
1. Root Vegetables
Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, potatoes, parsnips, and carrots are old standbys when it comes to roasting—and for good reason. These hearty vegetables taste incredibly delicious when oven roasted until their outsides turn golden brown and crisp while the insides reach the perfect degree of tenderness.
Achieving that holy grail of roasted vegetables in the oven at home can be trickier than it sounds. Restaurants use convection ovens that blow hot air around and wick away moisture and steam, which allows vegetables to brown more quickly and evenly.
One ingenious kitchen hack for achieving similar results in your own kitchen is to try a “hard roast.” Root veggies are a great choice for this since they’re hearty enough to stand up to an aggressive sear. This technique involves placing the baking sheet in an unconventional place: on the oven floor.
Here’s how the hard roast technique works:
- Preheat your oven to 450 °F.
- Chop your vegetables into same-size pieces. Shape matters less than chopping the pieces into equal sizes.
- Toss the veggies with the fat of your choosing—olive oil tastes lovely, but doesn’t always stand up to heat as well as coconut oil, avocado oil, or animal fat do—and season as desired with salt, black pepper, and any other of your favorite spices or aromatics, like red pepper flakes, fresh rosemary, and so on.
- Toss your evenly sized veggies on a rimmed baking sheet and place the sheet directly on the oven floor. Yes, seriously.
- After approximately 10 minutes, move the veggies around on the pan to facilitate even browning on all sides. Thanks to the high temperature on the oven floor, you’ll see a gorgeous, thick crust develop on the sides of the veggies that are resting on the sheet.
- Check about every 5 minutes.
- When all the sides are roasted and caramelized, and the insides have just begun to turn tender, remove the pan from the oven.
This technique yields insanely delicious oven roasted vegetables: richly caramelized on the outside without becoming mushy on the inside. Try using this adaptable roasted vegetable recipe to turn out a simple side dish that will have everyone begging you to share your secret!
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
When you’re roasting Brussels sprouts or any vegetable, you want to make sure you get your oven nice and hot before putting the veggies inside.
After slicing the sprouts into even pieces, toss them in a large bowl with the oil of your choice and any sauce or seasonings you want to use. We find balsamic vinegar pairs particularly well with roasted Brussels sprouts. If you need more inspiration, check out one of the many roasted vegetable recipes out there.
It’s super important to give your Brussels sprouts plenty of room to breathe—remember, you don’t want them to end up steamed! If you’re making a big batch, split them onto two baking sheets. Trust us, it’s worth it.
Once they’ve been in the oven for 15 minutes, it’s time to check their doneness. First, look for charring at the edges. That’s what makes roasted veggies so addictively good, so you definitely don’t want to pull them out if you’re not seeing any toasty caramelization. Second, use a fork to see if they’re tender on the inside. If they feel firm and resistant, let them roast on.
When in doubt, it’s better to let the veggies roast for 5 or 10 extra minutes. It’s far more likely that under-roasted veggies will disappoint than that the extra time will hurt them.
3. Winter Squash
Oven roasting is one of the absolute best ways to cook pretty much every type of winter squash out there, from acorn to butternut to kabocha. Summer squash like zucchini tends to fare better on the stovetop, though pattypan squash does hold up to high temperatures and longer cooking times.
Kabocha squash, in our opinion, does not receive nearly as much attention as it should. This lesser-known member of the winter squash family is both denser and smoother than other varieties. It holds its shape beautifully even when roasted for a long period of time.
If you’re looking for an impressive plant-based dish that’s compatible with most dietary restrictions out there (from paleo to vegan!), this Stuffed Kabocha Squash from Detoxinista may be just the thing.
She used a mixture of red onion, zucchini, bell pepper, fresh herbs, and olive oil to stuff the halves of her kabocha squash, but noted: “I have a feeling any vegetables and herbs would work well in this, so feel free to use whatever you have on hand—the goal is to have about 2 cups of chopped vegetables total to fill up both squash halves.”
She suggests slow roasting the squash at 350 °F until fork-tender and serving warm.
4. Soft Vegetables
For softer vegetables, like bell peppers, you’ll follow the same basic rules for perfectly roasted vegetables that we’ve already gone over. Slice them into equal-sized pieces, coat them in oil, leave enough space between veggie pieces on the pan, and roast until caramelized on the outside and tender on the inside.
If you’re going to learn how to roast one softer vegetable in the truly optimal fashion, we’d argue for red bell peppers.
You may notice that homemade roasted peppers have a more muted color than store-bought ones. That’s an indication that the skins were allowed to completely char before being peeled off. This infuses the flesh of the peppers with deep sweetness and subtle, luxurious smokiness.
Best of all, roasting bell peppers is a quick and simple process. Cook’s Illustrated recommends the following method:
- Slice the top and bottom off of each pepper, strip out the seeds and innards, and then make a single slice through the body of the pepper to turn it into a long, flat strip.
- Place the pepper pieces on a baking sheet lined with greased aluminum foil on a rack placed 5 inches from the broiler.
- Broil the peppers until charred, which takes approximately 12 minutes depending on your oven.
- For easy clean up, enclose the peppers in the foil on which you cooked them.
- Steam for a bit to loosen the skins, then peel them off and discard them.
- Enjoy your velvety, richly flavored roasted red bell peppers!
5. Thin Vegetables
Many of the roasting rules we’ve covered so far come into play when dealing with thin vegetables like green beans and asparagus.
Since these vegetables roast quite quickly—typically, they need only 10 to 20 minutes—you’ll have to be more attentive than when you’re roasting root veggies or winter squash. You’ll want to toss the veggies around on the sheet pan at least once, and preferably twice, while they’re roasting.
If you skip this step, you’ll end up with unevenly cooked green beans with one underdone, colorless side and one deep brown or even burnt side.
You might think that roasting thin vegetables at a lower heat would be better. Less risk of burning, right? More time for even browning? While some advocate roasting low and slow, many find this approach results in veggies that are simply uniformly soft, rather than that delightful combination of crisp and tender. It’s also common for that approach to result in less flavorful roasted veggies.