Some cooks swear by their steamer basket for quick vegetable dishes. But I couldn’t live without my roasting pan. After a busy day at work, I just cut up the vegetables I have in the fridge, toss them with a bit of oil, salt and pepper—if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, some herbs or spices, too—and pop them in a hot oven. A stir or two later, I have roasted vegetables full of flavor you could never coax from a steamer basket. That’s because when you cook at temperatures above 330°F, the delicious process of caramelization kicks in (when you steam, it doesn’t get above 212°F). At those hotter temperatures the natural sugars in vegetables, meat—even bread—turn nutty and richly sweet, giving that brown and almost crispy exterior. And who doesn’t love that?
There are just a few rules you have to follow when roasting vegetables:
First, make sure you cut the vegetables into equal-size pieces. That way they’ll all cook at the same rate.
Second, you need to spread them evenly on your baking sheet or roasting pan so they don’t touch. Crowded vegetables just create extra moisture and steam in the pan. (When in doubt, use two pans.)
Third, stir once or twice while cooking so the vegetables get nicely browned on all sides. Other than that, you can’t really go wrong. Our Vegetable Roasting Guide gives prep instructions for our favorite vegetables for roasting, but feel free to experiment with others as well. You can even mix and match vegetables—just make sure they have similar cooking times, or get ones with longer cooking times going first then add other vegetables accordingly. Don’t throw out your steamer basket just yet, but you might find yourself cranking up your oven more often.