For perfectly golden brown, crispy roasted meats and vegetables, start by skipping the roasting pan.
That’s because a baking sheet can deliver better oven browning than a roasting pan. The higher walls of roasting pans actually shield ingredients from the heat, preventing efficient browning. But the shorter sides of baking sheets allow for greater air circulation—and thus evaporation—around the ingredients.
For best results, it’s also important to group ingredients by cooking time. Combining slower- and faster-cooking ingredients can result in over- or undercooked food. Use two baking sheets if possible. But if two pans aren’t an option, longer-cooking items—such as hardy root vegetables—should be given a head start, while more delicate items can be added to the pan later. And avoid crowding the pan or including items that release a lot of liquid, which undermines the browning process.
Especially for items that cook quickly, such as seafood and delicate vegetables, we like to heat the pan in the oven before adding the ingredients. This jump-starts the roasting process, immediately searing foods for extra browning.
Heavyweight baking sheets are essential; thin pans can warp at the high heat of most roasting recipes. And avoid nonstick pans, as the coating can’t withstand higher temperatures and scratches easily. Finally, be sure to use a rimmed pan (sometimes called a sheet pan) rather than a cookie sheet, which has no sides.