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Pumpkins contain a wealth of nutrients, including vitamin A, beta carotene, and plenty of fiber. They also work well in many savory and sweet applications — from spicy pumpkin soups with seafood to classic pumpkin pie. Some cooks are content with canned pumpkin puree, but others prefer to make their puree from scratch, starting by roasting pumpkins. When roasting pumpkins, cooks must typically choose the right variety of pumpkin for roasting, place it in the proper baking dish, and let it roast in the oven. Like many hard-shell squashes, roasting pumpkins require time and patience.
The first tip for roasting pumpkins is usually to choose the right kind. Sugar pumpkins are often the variety of choice because many of them are sweeter and denser than other types. When choosing a sugar pumpkin, cooks should inspect it for bruises, mushy spots, and holes. These things may indicate a pumpkin close to spoilage. A good pumpkin typically has medium to dark orange flesh that is hard and sounds hollow when someone knocks on it. Darker skin usually indicates better-tasting flesh.
Washing the pumpkin before roasting it is also important. This removes dirt, pesticides, and oils from the rind and keeps these substances from getting into the flesh during the roasting process. Once washed, the cook should typically cut the pumpkin in half vertically and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. The cook may save the seeds for other applications, or discard them.
Proper baking dishes for roasting pumpkins typically include ceramic, glass, and air-bake metal cookie sheets. All of these kinds of bakeware usually heat slowly, which allows the flesh in the pumpkin to roast and soften gradually instead of scorching on the outside and remaining raw on the inside. Some cooks like to add about 1 inch (about 2 cm) of water to the bottom of the baking dish before placing the pumpkin halves in them, cut side down.
Most pumpkins roast well at about 350°F (about 176°C) for about an hour. Setting the timer for just 40 minutes at the start of cooking can allow the cook to check the pumpkin with a fork to see if the rind is tender. When the fork slips into the skin without resistance, the pumpkin is roasted all the way through. Patience during roasting can be very important. Cooks should avoid peeking at the pumpkin or checking the rind before time is up. This releases heat from the oven and may prevent the pumpkin from roasting properly.
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