There are few foods better than roasted vegetables. Roasting makes almost every veggie—from sweet potatoes to cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, and more—taste more flavorful, caramelized, and complex. All it takes is a quick drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and you’ve got endless opportunity. Their versatility makes roasted vegetables a great gateway into meal prepping, too: cover them with herbs for sides, serve in salads, soups, or sandwiches, or mix them into one-pot dishes like macaroni and cheese to add some extra nutritional oomph.
But if you’ve resisted the roasting pan for fear of it taking too long, overheating the house in warmer months, or if you’ve had a bad experience that ended in mushy oblivion, we have the easiest way to upgrade your roasting game that’ll solve all three of these problems. Simply preheat your baking sheet in the oven as it heats up.
Why? First, it’ll save you time. As soon as you turn on the oven, place your pan inside and let it get hot (about ten minutes is best, but this is forgiving) as you simultaneously prep your produce. When you toss veggies onto a hot pan, their undersides will begin cooking immediately, rather than having to wait for both the food and the pan to get hot as you would if the pan was cold. Because your oven won’t be on as long, your house won’t get as hot, so there’s no reason to squirrel your roasting pan away until winter.
What’s better, cooking on a hot pan will help your vegetables get more evenly browned on the outside and tender on the inside. Because heat from the oven and from the sheet tray’s surface will hit the food’s surface at the same time, your veggies will be less prone to getting dried out or burnt as you wait for their insides to soften. It’s the same reasoning behind why it’s best to sear steak in a hot pan—you get a beautifully browned outside before the inside overcooks.
Because this method helps your food cook more evenly, you won’t have to do nearly as much (if any) flipping and tossing of the pan to redistribute the veggies as they cook. French fries are the ultimate example: rather than waiting for the oven to brown their bottoms while their tops are already starting to steam, everything will get deliciously crispy at the same time. Case closed.