10 Tips For Getting Started With Sheet Pan Dinners

May 07, 2020

10 Tips For Getting Started With Sheet Pan Dinners

There’s a new trend in cooking: sheet pan meals

The sheet-pan approach is that the foods are roasted, not simmered together.

This is healthy eating. Plus, the roasting caramelizes the vegetables. 

As an added bonussheet pan cooking creates very few dishes for washing up. 

Quick, delicious, and easy (in planning, preparing, and clean-up) sheet pan dinners can be built a million ways and are completely customizable to your family’s favourites.

Sheet pan dinner

And once you start crafting your own combinations of protein, vegetable, herbs, and sauce, you will be hooked on this foolproof technique.

Here are 10 tips to get you started:

1. Use the Right Kind of Pan

The right baking sheet to use for sheet pan dinners is called a half-sheet pan. It's made of heavy-gauge metal, measures 45 cm x 33cm (18 by 13 inches), and has a 2.5cm (1-inch) rim all the way around. 

It's sturdy enough to take high oven heat--and sometimes broiler heat. 

The size allows for ingredients to be spread out so you don't crowd the pan. (Crowded pans make for mushy meals because the ingredients steam instead of roast.) 

The rim is low enough for the heat to move across the ingredients to give them a crisp, brown, caramelized finish

 

2. Line the Pan for Easy Clean-Up

Line the pan with heavy-duty foil or parchment paper (not waxed paper). You might have to do a little light washing later, but a well-lined pan cleans up in a jiffy.

 

3. For the crispiest roasted vegetables, let your pan heat up along with your oven.

To speed up the cook-time, and ensure that your vegetables get a good sear right off the bat, stick your baking sheet in the oven as the oven preheats. 

By the time you're ready to add the vegetables, the pan will be sizzling-hot, as if you were adding them to a hot skillet. "Not only does this jump-start the cooking process and decrease the total roasting time but it also assures you'll get caramelized crispy edges and even charred bits.

 

4. Pair Proteins and Vegetables That Have Similar Cook Times

If you want to build a sheet-pan dinner, you have to be a smart roasting matchmaker.

Because if you set up proteins and veggies on hot dates in the oven that finish cooking at radically different speeds, you’ll have a bit of a hot mess on your hands of burnt green beans next to perfectly cooked chicken thighs. 

Set up vegetables and proteins that will be happy hanging out in the same temperature oven for the same amount of time. 

Those green beans will cook at the same rate as a fish fillet—try pairing them with halibut for a roasted take on Nicoise salad. 

And with those chicken thighs? Try hearty whole carrots—they’ll be done at the exact same time.

 

5. Sometimes Two Pans Are Better Than One

Don’t torture yourself trying to fit everything onto one sheet-pan just so you can say you cooked the entire meal on one sheet pan. 

Sometimes, two sheet-pans will afford you greater control and giving you the freedom to make different combinations

 

6. Roast Things that You Can Turn into a Sauce

Think beyond roasting and eating every element of your sheet-pan dinner exactly as it comes off the sheet-pan— try transforming part of it into a sauce. 

That could be as simple as roasting a head of garlic in the corner of the sheet-pan that you whisk into mayo for a cheater’s aioli, or it could be as advanced as roasting salsa ingredients alongside chicken and squash to blend into a salsa-like dish

sheet pan dinner

7. When Prepping, Aim for Uniform Sizes

Cut vegetables to the same size and shape (too large and they won’t cook through, too small and they’ll burn).

Look for meat cuts of the same thickness so they’ll cook evenly.


8. Keep Moisture Out

Excess water is the enemy of sheet pan cooking because the oven has to work harder to evaporate moisture before it can brown and cook the food. Pat meat and rinsed veggies dry before cooking.


9. Oil Up the Ingredients

To ensure that vegetables don't dry out while they're cooking, make sure you completely coat them with oil. 

The best way to do this is by putting them into a large bowl and adding the oil and any other seasonings in your recipe. Then stir with a spoon or with your hands to cover everything thoroughly. 

smart move is to do the dense vegetables first, then use what's in the bowl to coat the softer vegetables that will be added to the pan later.


10. Basic guidelines for time and temperature:

This list outlines some complementary ingredients pairings based on cooking time and oven temperature. You’ll also want the vegetables you’re cooking together to be more-or-less the same size to promote even cooking.

205° C (400° F) for 20 to 30 minutes

  • Veg: cabbage, carrots, turnips, radicchio, apples

  • Protein: pork chops

205° C  (400° F) for 35 to 40 minutes

  • Veg: bell peppers, onions, sweet potatoes,

  • Protein: sausages (pork, chicken, lamb)

220° C (425° F) for 15 minutes

  • Veg: bok choy, green beans, scallions, mushrooms, greens, tomatoes, zucchini, leeks, asparagus, lemon rounds

  • Protein: fish (salmon fillets, large white fish fillet)

220° C (425° F) for 20 to 30 minutes

  • Veg: green beans, eggplant, bell peppers, scallions

  • Protein: tofu

220° C (425° F)  for 35 to 45 minutes

  • Veg: potatoes, fennel, squash, beets, Brussels sprouts, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, orange rounds

  • Protein: chicken pieces (bone-in)

These 10 tips should get you started in trying sheet pan dinners.

 

Additional Reading

  • 10 Tips for Better Sheet-Pan Dinners (bonappetit.com) - If your sheet-pan dinners consist of a jumble of random ingredients, you need to read this.
  • 7 Tips for Making Sheet Pan Recipes Better - Cooking Light (cookinglight.com) - These quick tips will help you maximize the potential of your recipes and keep from wreaking havoc in your kitchen.Hi
  • 6 Mistakes Every Sheet Pan Supper Newbie Makes (tasteofhome.com) - Is it possible to make flavorful, healthy sheet pan dinners? You bet! Are you going to come up against some mistakes? Sure, but we can help you fix them.



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