Steam-Roast Vegetables to Caramelized Tenderness

Roasting is a fantastic way to cook vegetables because it enhances their natural sweetness. The same general rules that apply to oven-roasting meats also apply to vegetables: You need high, dry heat and some fat to achieve browning and a pan large enough to accommodate the vegetables without overcrowding.

Typical recipes for roasting vegetables call for you to roast them uncovered for the entire time. But with this method, there’s a danger that the veggies will dry out and turn leathery. Plus, other ingredients, such as herbs and aromatics like garlic, can burn easily during the time it takes for the vegetables to cook through. Chefs often parboil vegetables to jump-start cooking before roasting them in the oven, but that’s fussy to do at home.

Our simple hybrid steam-roasting technique is a superior method for home cooks, and it uses the same “ingredient” as our vegetablesautéing technique on this page: water. Not only does it produce perfectly roasted vegetables, but it’s also largely hands-off and allows you to include ingredients like herbs or nuts, or aromatics like garlic or shallots, without worrying about them burning by too getting much direct heat exposure.

Spread your veggies over a rimmed baking sheet, seal them tightly with aluminum foil, and place them in a very hot oven. This allows them to steam in their own moisture until softened through. Then, remove the foil to expose the vegetables to the direct dry heat of the oven for roasting. The low sides of the rimmed baking sheet allow for plenty of airflow after you remove the foil, which allows the vegetables to brown, crisp up, and caramelize.

Nearly any vegetable can be roasted in this way. How you cut the vegetables matters: You want them small enough to cook through under the foil relatively quickly, but with enough surface area to get plenty of good browning without drying out after you remove the foil. Wedges, batons, crescents, large florets, and cubes measuring 1 to 1½ inches are all good.

1 Toss vegetables in bowl with oil or butter and seasonings to evenly combine.

2 Arrange vegetables in single layer on rimmed baking sheet, cut side facing down, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast until tender.

3 Remove foil and continue to roast until sides of vegetables touching pan are golden and crusty.

4 Flip or stir vegetables and roast until golden and crusty on second side, sprinkling with fresh herbs near the end of roasting.

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