Eggplant is a powerful fruit. When properly roasted, eggplants can be as rich and savory as any meat. Roasting eggplant isn’t difficult, but there are a few tricks that we love to employ to make sure they come out of the oven evenly cooked and golden brown. Follow our advice and harness the power of the eggplant to create delicious dinners in your home.
How to prepare an eggplant before roasting
The first step is choosing a dish for your finished eggplant. If you’re working with a recipe, it will offer guidelines on how you should cut your eggplant. If you’re not working with a recipe, try choosing from one of the methods below:
Small cubes of eggplant are well-suited to salads because they are easy to stab with a fork, and they are perfectly bite-sized. This method of preparation maximizes surface area and browning, for a crispy final product.
To cut an eggplant into cubes, first rinse the eggplant. Then use a chef’s knife to cut off the very top of the eggplant, removing the stem. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise to form two long pieces. Working one half at a time, place the eggplant cut-side-down on a board and slice lengthwise into strips. Keeping the strips together, rotate the eggplant and cut across the strips at a 90° angle. Repeat this process with the other half.
Roasted eggplant rounds are easy to slice and eat. This shape has a good balance between crispy surface area and creamy roasted interior. Eggplant rounds are a great way to top off a grain bowl.
To slice an eggplant into rounds, start by rinsing the eggplant and removing the stem with a chef’s knife. Then, simply lay the eggplant on its side and slice across the eggplant, doing your best to keep each round even.
Eggplant halves have a crispy exterior and a creamy exterior. With a golden-brown top, these large pieces make for a beautiful presentation.
To cut an eggplant into halves simply rinse, remove the stem, and slice lengthwise with a chef’s knife. To help these large pieces cook evenly, we recommend scoring the surface before roasting, as demonstrated below.
When to salt an eggplant before cooking
Salting and rinsing eggplants prior to cooking isn’t always necessary, even though you might see it in recipes. The eggplants of yesteryear had a strong bitter flavor. Cooks would mellow out this astringency by salting and rinsing eggplant slices prior to cooking. Today’s eggplants have been selectively bred to remove this bitterness, so salting to remove unwanted flavors before roasting is unnecessary.
Sometimes salting can serve another purpose: drawing out excess moisture. Eggplants are full of water, and it can make it hard to get them nice and brown when frying. All of that water turns to steam in the pan, and prevents the eggplants from getting crispy. To remove water, you need a good amount of salt. Sprinkle the sliced eggplant generously with salt, and wait for 10-15 minutes. You should see little beads of water forming on the surface of the eggplant. Brush off the excess salt, and use paper towels to pat the eggplant dry. Now you should be able to achieve a beautiful sear.
When to score an eggplant before cooking
If you’re working with large pieces, scoring an eggplant will help the flesh cook evenly and allow any seasonings to penetrate the flesh of the eggplant. Scoring before roasting eggplant also creates more surface area. That means you’ll get even more caramelized golden brown goodness in your finished dish.
All you need to score an eggplant is a small knife and a cutting surface. This technique will work with any type of eggplant. We’re demonstrating with a globe eggplant, which is the variety most commonly available in American grocery stores.
Start by removing the stem of the eggplant. Do this by cutting away the very top of the eggplant with your knife. Discard or compost this portion. Then, cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. You should end up with two long eggplant halves.
Working one half at a time, use the very tip of your knife to make long, shallow diagonal incisions across the entire surface of the eggplant. Then rotate the eggplant and repeat the process, so that the shallow cuts form a crosshatch pattern. Repeat this process with the other half of the eggplant. To see just how simple this process is, watch Chef Tim demonstrate in the video below.
How to roast eggplant in the oven
You’re ready to roast! Be sure to season the eggplant thoroughly with salt, pepper, and olive oil and before placing it in the oven. Eggplants are very absorbent, so we recommend brushing the olive oil on with a silicon brush (if you have one). Cooking time will vary based on the size of your eggplant pieces, but for ½-inch slices, it should take about 20-22 minutes in a 450°F oven.
Recipes with roasted eggplant
Now that you’re done roasting your eggplant, it’s time for the fun part. Choose a recipe that shows off your creation. Here are a few that we love:
Roasted Eggplant Pitas with Tomato, Cucumber & Farro Salad
Seared Cod & Miso-Roasted Japanese Eggplant with Cucumber-Soba Noodle Salad
Smoky Marinated Eggplant with Herb Salsa
If you want to scoring an eggplant at home, we recommend this trusty petty knife.