Whether it’s sweet potatoes, broccoli or Brussels sprouts, we’re firm believers that a roasted vegetable is a superior vegetable. Not only are they delicious, but they’re versatile for meal prep, quick dinners and fridge cleanouts. And while they’re easy enough to make, there’s a foolproof way to ensure your roasted vegetables come out of the oven crispy and caramelized every single time: Don’t line your sheet pan.
Unlined sheet pans equal better browning
We did a little at-home experiment, tossing some sweet potatoes in olive oil and salt and roasting them in a 400ºF oven, with half on a parchment-lined sheet pan and half on an unlined one. Twenty-five minutes later, the unlined taters were browned to our liking, fork-tender and cooked through in the middle. The ones on parchment were soggy and still lacking color. (Nooo.)
Here’s why it works: With an unlined sheet pan, the veggies come in direct contact with the hot pan, which makes for better (and faster) caramelization. Parchment inhibits that direct contact and retains moisture. More moisture equals more steam equals less browning—the opposite of what we’re going for.
If you’re worried the vegetables will stick to the pan…
You tossed your produce in olive oil and salt, right? Good. So unless you’re roasting those vegetables bare, with not even a drop of oil on them (which is, to be honest, kinda sad), then they shouldn’t stick to the pan. And cooking them in oil directly on the sheet pan has the additional benefit of seasoning it like a cast iron skillet, building up its nonstick abilities each time you use it.
If you’re concerned about the cleanup…
Sure, lining your sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper makes for easy cleanup in theory. But who hasn’t gone to toss that lining and found that some grease or liquid has seeped onto the pan? There’s usually a small amount of scrubbing to do either way you slice it. And think of the waste you’re eliminating when you use an unlined sheet pan. Easier, tastier and eco-friendlier? We call that a win-win-win.