The Learn To Cook series encourages home cooks to learn the techniques needed for guaranteed success in the kitchen, sponsored by the America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School. Start a free trial membership today.
When I became an editor for the Cooking School, I figured that I already knew most of what was in there. How wrong I was. As I went through the videos and text, I found myself learning new tips and techniques without even trying.
In the next few months you’ll be hearing from me as I share techniques and tips from the America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School. Today we’ll start with roasting, but if you have any requests be sure to let me know in the comments.
So without further ado, 3 tips for roasting perfect vegetables:
1. Heat It Up. Like many home cooks, I used to shy away from high heat. I kept my skillet at medium and my oven on 350. It’s an intimidation thing and a big mistake. In the Essentials of Roasting lesson I learned why it’s so important to use high heat. When you’re trying to intensify the natural flavor of a vegetable, you want all the delicious caramelization and browning that comes with high heat. Cauliflower is not what you’d call a sexy vegetable, but slice it into eight wedges and roast it for 24 minutes at 450 and it’ll make you turn your head. It gets creamy on the inside and develops those crispy crunchy edges that taste so good on the outside. Preheat your baking sheet for even sexier cauliflower.
2. Veggie Equality. Let me outline a typical evening in my home. It’s after work and I’m hungry and tired. I read through my recipe and start prepping. 30 minutes later I realize I’ll never have dinner on the table before midnight and years of hard-earned knife skills go out the window as I start hacking at my poor veggies as quickly as I can, leaving some big, some small, and some on the floor. Big mistake! Uniform pieces cook evenly, which means no under- or over-cooked food on the plate. Plan ahead and take your time, especially if you’re just learning proper knife skills. Speed will come with practice, but for now, slow down and make sure everything is getting cut to the same size.
3. Flip out. With your perfectly sliced cauliflower roasting in your preheated oven, it’s time to pour yourself a glass of wine and kick up your feet, right? Not quite. There’s one more step between you and a perfectly roasted brassica wedge: flipping the pieces. When roasting any vegetable it’s important to flip each and every piece over partway through cooking. This ensures even browning. You don’t want one side of your cauliflower to be a deep, crispy brown and the other side pallid and mushy, do you? The best time for flipping is about two thirds of the way through the total cook time, since the cool veggies will take longer to brown than the already heated ones.
The Cooking School has Recipe Lessons for Crisp Roasted Potatoes, Easy Roasted Carrots, and Roasted Cauliflower, but once you know the basics you can apply this technique to nearly any vegetable. I use it on asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and acorn squash on a regular basis. And I think that’s the real value of the Cooking School—you don’t just learn a recipe, you learn a method that you can apply over and over again.
What technique would you like to learn at the America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School? Tell me in the comments!