Is grilling significantly better than roasting vegetables?
(Photo source is here)
In the Japanese home kitchen, you will almost always find a convectional (toaster) oven. Newer homes have stoves with built in grills like this or this since we grill/roast a lot. I was taught to roast vegetables in a convectional oven and it never occurred to me that roasting in an oven might alter the taste of a vegetable.
Over on FB Questions while sharing our baba ghanouj recipes, someone mentioned grilling eggplants is the real secret to baba ghanouj, since roasting over a grill brings out the flavor.
Since I was taught to roast in a convectional oven, I started questioning my method and turned to my favorite resources: Harold McGee‘s “Keys to Good Cooking” and “The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual” for their insights. Both stated the same thing: The temperature and slicking the exterior with oil are the key points.
So what does this mean?
Flavorful roasted vegetables are achieved because of the sugars developing as the vegetables are roasting. The natural sugars are what enhances the flavor, and slicking the outside of the vegetable with a thin coat of oil 1. prevents the vegetable from going limp and 2. the oil heats the innards. Point 2 is especially important when roasting vegetables with high water content (like eggplant for baba ghanouj!)
Harold McGee also notes:
- turning pieces occasionally to even browning
- placing vegetables in shallow pan to heat them evenly
I just place the vegetables directly on a piece of aluminum foil and throw that into the convectional oven and roast at high temperatures, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn.
I’m so glad charcoal grilling is unnecessary to properly roast vegetables since I don’t own one!