With the beginning of a New Year, many of us are looking to eat healthier but also want recipes that are simple and easy to prepare with quick clean-up. For me, sheet pan cooking is a good solution. You can have protein and vegetables ready in a short time for dinner. It is also a great way to use any leftover vegetables you might have in your refrigerator.
The concept is pretty straight forward but there are a few tips to keep in mind for more successful sheet pan cooking. First of all you will want to use the right pan – it should be sturdy, measure 18 by 13 inches, and have a one inch rim all the way around it. A half sheet pan is ideal. Jellyroll pans will look similar but in general are smaller and flimsier than half sheet pans. The size is important so your ingredients can spread out. This will help them roast rather than steam which causes mushiness. The rim is important to allow air to flow across the pan which helps the ingredients brown and get a bit crispy. The sturdiness of the pan is important to allow for high oven heat and sometimes the broiler. For speedier and easier clean-up, line the pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
When selecting vegetables to use, remember denser vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc) take longer to cook than softer vegetables so you will want to roast the denser vegetables for 30 minutes or more before adding the softer vegetables to the pan. This sometimes takes trial and error so write a few notes down as you are trying various combinations of vegetables. Choose vegetables that are in season that you like to roast and cut them into roughly the same size pieces for more even cooking. You may want to consider adding fruits to your sheet pan dinner as well. Grapes, apples, pears, peaches and plums all roast nicely. They will cook more quickly so add them at the end of the cooking time.
Once you have your vegetables and fruits prepped, toss them with oil to completely coat them. This helps keep them from drying out. You can use olive, grapeseed, coconut or canola oil. Put the cut up vegetable and fruit pieces in a large bowl, pour your choice of oil and any seasonings you may be using over them, and stir with a spoon or your hands to cover the pieces with the oil. You may want to coat the denser pieces first then use what is left in the bowl to coat the softer pieces that will be added later.
It is best to avoid cuts of meat that require braising when you are doing sheet pan cooking. If you are using breaded chicken or fish, use a wire rack to keep the breaded ingredients above the moisture in the pan. This will help the meat keep it’s crisp coating. You would also want to use a rack if you are roasting a cut of beef or pork so the ingredients get basted with the juices and the meat gets browned.
If your sheet pan meal looks too pale to you when you take it out of the oven, try putting it under the broiler for a short time for color.
There are many recipes available online from many sources to help you get started. The possibilities are practically endless!