Visit my place at any time and you’ll often find me cooking my dinner on sheet pans in the oven. It’s time to move over from the Dutch ovens, crock pots, and skillets to the sheet pan dinners in 2021. Easy, quick, and delicious sheet pan dinners can be built in different ways and are completely customizable to your family’s favorites.
What Is a Sheet Pan Dinner?
If you cook a meatloaf alone on a sheet pan instead of a loaf pan, then that is a sheet pan meatloaf and not a sheet pan dinner. A sheet pan dinner requires more than one component in the sheet pan. The meatloaf needs to come with some kind of side, which can be vegetables to simple baked potatoes.
The genius behind making a great sheet pan dinner in 2021 lies behind seven secrets which are supposed to have a simple prep, no-fuss cooking, and a speedy clean-up. That’ll be true if you keep these 7 tips in your mind!
1. Select The Right Kind of Pan
The right kind of pan to use should be sturdy enough to take high oven heat. When selecting a sheet to use for sheet pan dinner, it should be made of heavy metal. The best sheet pan is called a rimmed half-sheet pan which measures 18 by 13 inches and has a 1-inch rim all the way around. Full sheet pans are too large to fit in the home ovens. The rims are very important in a sheet pan, if you use a rimless cooking sheet, juices are going to spill all over.
A small sheet pan will make you crowd your ingredients on the pan resulting in mushy meals because the ingredients steam instead of roast. If you decide to use two quarter-sheets to cook your food instead of a single half-sheet pan, it will avoid crowding of ingredients and it’s the same surface area as a half-sheet pan.
The good news is that half-sheet pans are not expensive and you can easily find them on Amazon.
One advantage of using multiple smaller trays instead of one big tray is that it solves one of the biggest challenges of sheet pan dinners: the use of space and timing. You can be cooking vegetables on one tray while you’re roasting chicken on the other, and you can pull out any of them when one is cooked enough.
2. Line The Pan For Easy Cleaning
After cooking using your sheet pan, it may end up being filled up with oil and grease, which may be hard to clean. (See the photo at the top, for example.) To avoid the stress and time spent on cleaning, line the pan with heavy-duty foil for parchment paper (not waxed paper). In the end, you’ll end up with a light washing. A well-lined pan cleans up in seconds.
3. Get To Know Your Oven
All ovens are not the same. A lot of ovens have uneven heating cycles. Attempting to maintain the selected temperatures in an oven where you power it on and off, causes heat spikes and dips in the process.
Many ovens are also plagued by temperature inaccuracies. You may find that the 150°F in your oven might be higher or lower than that, making it difficult to achieve consistent results. Chances are decent that your oven is not calibrated properly, whether it is new or old, high-end or budget.
Oven calibration is very important. Have an oven-thermometer and measure your ovens’ temperature. This will help you know how accurate your oven temperature is.
Performance can still vary, even if you know the temp at which your ovens run at. For example, all broilers are not the same. Some broilers can overcook at the same temp and others undercook at the same temperature. No recipe can account for all of this.
Get familiar with your oven and know what works and what doesn’t work.
4. Give Whole Vegetables a Head Start
Carrots and potatoes take longer to cook than softer vegetables such as tomatoes. Depending on what next you’ll be adding on the pan you should give denser vegetables a head start. In this recipe for tasty ways to cook with honey, small whole potatoes can cook along with crispy honey chili chicken for 45 minutes. Other ingredients are added 15 minutes before the sheet pan comes out of the oven. When denser vegetables are cut into smaller pieces, they’ll need a shorter head start. Finely cut carrots will cook faster than large cut carrots.
5. Oil Up the Ingredients
Coat your vegetables with oil to ensure that they don’t dry out while cooking your dinner. Put your vegetables into a large bowl and add the oil and any other seasoning in your recipe. Then use your hands or stir with a spoon to cover everything roughly.
Start with the dense vegetables and add them to the oven, and then you can coat the softer vegetables later with the remaining cooking oil.
6. Know When To Rack Different Ingredients
You want to bake fish or breaded chicken along with vegetables. To keep the crisp from getting soggy from the veg, use a wire rack. A wire rack will help in raising the breaded ingredients above the moisture in the pan and still making sure your breaded chicken has that tasty caramelized surface.
This approach can be used with any other ingredient, such as when roasting a cut of beef or pork. The juices will baste the ingredients while the meat gets gloriously browned. Yummy.
7. Get Creative With Flavor Boosters
- Try seasoning blends: garam masala, jerk seasoning, Italian seasoning, Chinese five-spice, Old Bay, or za’atar.
- Use spicy chilies: crushed red pepper, ancho powder, fresh jalapeños or serranos, dried cayenne, or canned chipotles.
- Add sauces and drizzles: olive oil, wasabi sour cream, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, or herbed aioli.
- Toss in some nuts: walnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds, pine nuts, or cashews.
- Squeeze on or zest some citrus: orange, lime, lemon, or grapefruit.
- Sprinkle on fresh aromatics: Green onion, cilantro, oregano basil, thyme, or parsley before serving.
What’s your favorite easy sheet pan dinner recipe? Let us know in the comments below!
Hi, my name is John Paul and I'm a 21-year-old college student with a passion for side hustling, coding and GIS. John Paul is also an editor and a writer at https://scholarswap.com.