100 Techniques

Technique #9: Steam-Roast Vegetables to Caramelized Tenderness

Use the water already in the vegetables for perfect results every time.

Published Oct. 23, 2023.

This is Technique #9 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

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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.

Our steam-roasting technique produces the same caramelized results, and solves a couple of problems you find with regular roasting, too.

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Traditional Roasting vs. Steam-Roasting

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 vegetable-sautéing technique: 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.

Our technique calls for you to 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.

295 Roasting Recipes

How To Roast Everything

How to Roast Everything is the first cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen devoted to the art and science of roasting, pulling together decades of test kitchen experience and knowledge to help you roast everything from meat and fish to vegetables and fruit.

It Matters How You Cut

Nearly any vegetable can be roasted in this way. But 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.

Our Roasted Delicata Squash recipe demonstrates our steam-roasting technique.

Step by Step: How to Steam-Roast Vegetables

Grab some foil and a rimmed baking sheet: It's time to learn how to steam-roast.

Step 1: Toss to Coat

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

Step 2: Cover and Roast

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

Step 3: Uncover and Finish Roasting

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

Step 4: Finish with Fresh Herbs

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

Recipes That Use This Technique

Use your newfound steam-roasting knowledge with any of these recipes.


Foil-Roasted Potatoes

Tired of peeling and mashing? For a perfectly simple potato side dish, reach for the roll.
Get the Recipe

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Too often, roasted sweet potatoes turn out starchy and wan. To hit their sweet spot, was it time to throw out a cardinal rule of roasting?
Get the Recipe

Roasted Delicata Squash

Tired of struggling to peel and cut heavy-duty squash? Try something more delicate, like this roasted delicata squash.
Get the Recipe

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

What would it take to create crisp, delicious, nutty-tasting brussels sprouts in just one pan? Just a little bit of water.
Get the Recipe

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