When the weather starts to get cold there's nothing quite as satisfying as a warm, home-cooked meal.
It's no surprise then that the fall and winter months are full of delicious roasted recipes. From the Thanksgiving turkey to maple-glazed carrots, many cold-weather meals rely on this cooking technique.
Want to work some dinner magic of your own? Make sure you have the tools you need to transform vegetables, poultry, and meat into golden brown, oven-roasted perfection.
Roasting, a technique that uses dry heat (like an open flame or the heat in your oven) to cook food, is an easy way to bring out the natural sweetness in many foods. Everything from carrots to cauliflower can be tossed in some good-quality olive oil, lightly-salted, and roasted on a heavy sheet pan in the oven. As the vegetables cook, their natural sugars become slightly caramelized, giving them a lightly charred appearance and a smoky, subtly sweet flavor. The same is true when you're roasting meat or poultry; a browning reaction (known as the Maillard reaction) adds color, flavor, and aroma to the meat.
Roasting is a relatively simple technique and doesn't require much equipment. Many of the specialty roasting tools available on store shelves are unnecessary (no need to buy special multi-pronged roast-cutting tongs for example, as long as you own a large fork and a sharp knife). With a few basic tools in your kitchen arsenal, and knowledge about how to use them, you'll be able to roast just about any food.
If you're not sure which tools you really need, we've got a quick checklist to help you make sure you're ready for cold-weather cooking and roasting.
1. Meat Thermometer
It’s worth it to spend a little extra money to purchase a reliable thermometer. Cooking meat to the correct temperature is important not only in terms of food safety, but also in terms of ensuring a moist and juicy finished roast. If you’re roasting meat or poultry, invest in a thermometer.
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2. Aluminum Foil
It sounds basic, but heavy-duty aluminum foil comes in handy in the kitchen more often than you might think. Lining a baking sheet with aluminum foil before roasting vegetables, for example, can make cleanup easier. Plus, if you’re roasting a bird and you find that parts of it are browning too quickly, a quick foil cover can slow things down.
3. Carving Board
Although you can carve a roast on just about any cutting board, carving boards typically have a channel around the edge to collect any juices that run off as you slice through the roast. Many also feature a reversible design with a flat cutting surface on the other side.
4. Heavy, Rimmed Baking Sheet
Look for a heavy baking sheet with low sides for roasting vegetables. The low sides allow the heat from the oven to reach the vegetables but still prevent any juices that are released during cooking from spilling over the edge. If you can find a stainless steel baking sheet, get it; it has a lower chance of reacting with acidic ingredients.