Roast Your Vegetables Like a Chef With This Technique

The high, direct heat of your oven’s floor is the secret to restaurant-quality roasted vegetables.

Colorful roasted vegetables

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If there are roasted vegetables on a restaurant menu, I’m ordering them. There’s something irresistible about the crispy sides, crunchy bits, and tender interiors of a simple carrot or piece of cauliflower that emerge from high-heat restaurant ovens. But here’s the secret: You can get those results at home. Simply placing your roasting pan directly on the floor of the oven means you can make restaurant-quality roasted vegetables at home.

Understand your oven 

Though the oven might be the most powerful and versatile tool in the kitchen, it’s also deceptively simple. You turn on your oven with the click of a button, or by turning a dial, wait a few minutes for it to heat up, and place a dish inside to cook – but there’s more going on behind the scenes, and it's actually quite complex. 

To be a better cook, you need to fully understand your oven temperature, which can fluctuate during use. Built-in thermometers sit in one spot in the oven and regulate based on the temperature in that particular spot. They are prone to errors; the best practice is to use an additional oven thermometer. Most importantly, different areas of the oven will run hotter than others. Understanding the last variable, including the location of the hot and cool spots in your oven, is key to excellent roasted veggies every time. 

Where to start? According to King Arthur Baking Company, “Your oven is hottest around its periphery: sides, bottom, and top.” The heating elements in an oven (specifically a non-convection oven) are built into the top or bottom, where the thermal radiation (which is a fancy way of saying “waves of heat”) is emitted, heating up the air inside. While you can broil vegetables under the high heat or direct flame at the top of the oven, the intense heat it provides is concentrated to a very narrow strip at the top of the oven. On the other hand, heat at the “Bake” setting emanates from the base of the oven, making the floor the hottest oven zone at most temperature settings. 

Use high and direct heat for the win

While it’s often best practice to bake in the center of your oven, where the temperature is most regulated, roasted vegetables can benefit from the intense, imbalance heat from the floor of the oven. Think about searing just about anything in a skillet; you heat up a pan and use the direct heat from the flame below to create a browned crust on the exterior of your meat, starch, or vegetable without overcooking the middle. Roasting on the oven floor achieves a similar result. 

How to roast vegetables on the floor of the oven

Whether dry roasting or coating your vegetables in oil, placing the roasting pan or sheet tray on the floor allows direct contact with high heat. To roast on the floor of your oven it's important to understand the needs of the vegetable. Setting your oven to 425°F is a good rule of thumb for all roasted vegetables, especially when you are roasting a medley of veggies at once. For more delicate produce like greens or broccoli which can char quickly, keep a watchful eye to make sure they don’t go too far in the intense heat—check on them every 5 minutes or so. The floor of your oven will work to sear the vegetables, so taking a peek at the underside of the vegetable which has direct contact with the pan will eliminate the risk of burning. For roasting heartier, more dense produce like winter squash or potatoes and considering the size of the cuts, checking every 15 minutes for burning and tenderness will lead to good results. If it seems like your vegetables are sticking to the pan, be patient! They will release as they build a crisp exterior from caramelization.  

Pay close attention 

While oven floor roasting is an easy way to take veggies to crispy, caramelized perfection, it is also easy to take things too far. Check on your vegetables more often than if you were roasting them in the middle of the oven. The line between deeply browned and burned is easy to miss, so be careful not to overcook anything. And don’t forget that excess parchment paper that hangs over the side of a pan can easily catch fire in this region of the oven, so trim it down, or use foil or a silicone mat instead. Like with any new cooking technique, successfully roasting vegetables can take time and practice, but consider the floor of the oven your new secret weapon. 

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