Roasted vegetables are a staple in my kitchen. But that perfect char evades many home cooks. I had a reader tell me they couldn’t re-create my Cauliflower Steak recipe. Their cauliflower came out tasty, but not quite roasted. Here are the tips I gave them for better roasted veggies:
1. Dry Them Thoroughly
Of course you should rinse the food before roasting it, but be sure to dry it completely. Water left on the vegetables will produce moisture inside the oven, thus steaming the vegetables. Skipping this step will result in vegetables that are soft and might as well have been cooked on top of the stove.
2. Space Them Apart on the Baking Sheet
When roasting a large amount of vegetables, it’s tempting to crowd the baking sheet. But you must resist the urge! Roasting requires direct contact between the food and the baking sheet in order to create a crispy surface. That crispy surface will never happen, if the vegetables are in one big heap.
3. Never Use Frozen Vegetables
While frozen veggies are a reliable shortcut in most cases, they’re not suited for roasting. As they melt on the baking sheet, they will produce liquid. Similar to tip #2, the liquid will cause them to steam in the oven instead of roasting.
4. Salt After Roasting
So you have the correct oven temperature and completely dry veggies, but your roasted dishes still lack oomph. Often times home cooks will season vegetables only before roasting. But for optimal flavor, you should apply non-salt seasonings (cumin, paprika, herbs, etc) before roasting. Then sprinkle coarse salt over the roasted veggies immediately after removing them from the oven. Not only will this amplify flavor, but finishing with flaky sea salt enhances presentation as well.
5. Crank Up the Heat
Your oven should be at least 400 degrees for roasting most vegetables. At lower temperatures, the veggies will cook through just fine but they’ll never achieve that crispy roasted texture.