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How to Roast Root Vegetables: Potatoes, Carrots, and Yams

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Winter is the perfect time for oven-roasted vegetables.

Winter is the perfect time for oven-roasted vegetables.

A Basic Cooking Skill

At lunch recently, a good friend asked me how to roast vegetables. I looked at her to see if she was pulling my leg, and saw that she was in fact asking in all earnestness. Surprised, I asked her husband if he knew how to roast veggies, and he confessed ignorance on the matter as well.

Now, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, because an awful lot of people of my generation grew up with two working parents and thus ate a lot of takeout and microwaved dinners along the way—and since parents didn't cook, kids never really learned a lot of basic cooking techniques.

So with that in mind, I wanted to write out some basic instructions for roasting root vegetables. It’s such an easy technique to master, and the skills are transferable between just about any root vegetable. The actual work required to prepare roast vegetables is negligible, and best of all, roasted root vegetables taste incredible! Everyone likes roasted carrots or rosemary sprinkled brown-crisped roasted potatoes, even vegetable haters love these sides!

How to Roast Root Vegetables

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  2. Grab about 1 pound of root vegetables (this will make a moderate side dish serving for 4 people). You can use any root vegetable or a combination of root vegetables that you like. Some common selections include:
    • Potatoes
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Parsnips
    • Carrots
    • Turnips
    • Rutabagas
    • Onions
  3. Peel and cut the root vegetables into wedges or rectangular cubes about the size of your index finger, or maybe a little bit fatter. It doesn’t really matter what size you slice them, (bigger slices will just take a little longer) but it is important that all the vegetables are the same approximate size.
  4. Take out a large oven-safe casserole dish or baking tray—something you'd put a turkey into is about the right size, and plop your cut-up root vegetables into it.
  5. Grab some olive oil (or vegetable oil is fine too) and glug on about ¼ cup of oil. You want to generously coat all of the veggies.
  6. Sprinkle salt all over, and if you'd like to add additional flavors (thyme and rosemary are both very nice here) sprinkle a bit of dried thyme or cut fresh rosemary on top as well.
  7. Whack it into the oven uncovered and cook for between 40 minutes and an hour, or until the vegetables are cooked and softened through and browning nicely on the outside.

These just taste so good. The dry heat of the oven caramelizes the rich sugars of the root vegetables leaving you with very complex and delicious flavor notes. Everyone likes good roasted vegetables—and they only take about as long as it takes to peel and chop a few veggies—the rest is just waiting time.

Winter is the perfect time for oven-roasted vegetables. Enjoy, and if you've never made these before, prepare to impress yourself with your cooking prowess!

© 2009 John D Lee