Sheet Pan Suppers

Sheet PanWe’ve all, at some time or other, experienced inklings of tenderness toward an inanimate kitchen object. Sometimes these “relationships” are the stuff of romance novels—all-consuming, unsustainable, porn-tastic indiscretions followed by dramatic and unconscious uncouplings. Other times they’re long, meandering courtships that sadly tend to settle into disappointment. Or they’re innocent crushes whose impracticality quickly render the situation impossible. But on rare occasion, an actual romance will transpire, one in which we not only learn to understand the other’s occasional inadequacies, but choose to look past them out of affection for the everyday loveliness they bring to life. We suspect that the devotion Molly Gilbert expresses in the cookbook Sheet Pan Suppers is the latter sort of love. Actually, after reading the below excerpt from the book, we think we’re starting to feel pangs of this very same sort of amour.—Renee Schettler Rossi

I love a good one-pot meal. Really, who doesn’t? Maximum ease, minimal cleanup, and boom—dinner. But beyond soup, chili, stew, and braises, the one-pot meal quickly loses its legs. It’s pretty much all soupy stuff, all the time. And do you really want to eat Dad’s “famous” chili again?

I want the simplicity and ease of a one-pot meal, but I want more. I want the flexibility to get creative. I want an elegant, satisfying, complete meal. And most of all, I want amazing, intense flavor.

Enter the sheet pan.

Why a sheet pan? Good question—one that was never addressed in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Which means I had to figure it out on my own. Sheet pans combine pure ease—easy prep, easy process, easy cleanup) and interesting, sophisticated flavor. Try rack of lamb and buttered carrots. All on one pan. No mess. No fuss. Boom. Dinner.

Also known as a “rimmed baking sheet,” the sheet pan is one seriously underrated kitchen tool. Sheet pans are usually made out of stainless steel, and in a professional kitchen can be as large as 26 by 18 inches, or approximately enormous. For us home cooks, the more readily available 18-by-13-inch variety (professionally called a “half-sheet”) does perfectly well. Though you can buy sheet pans that have nonstick coating, I prefer to use ones made from stainless steel since nonstick surfaces often don’t hold up to daily wear and tear, and can erode with time, potentially contaminating your food. If you’re concerned about food sticking to the pan—particularly an issue with lean meats, fruit, and baked things—you can line your sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

“Sheet pan cooking” means roasting, baking, and broiling, a trio of methods that concentrate and intensify flavor. That’s just science talking, not me. If you, too, start to tune out when science starts to talk, take courage—it’s actually pretty simple. The shallow sides of a sheet pan allow your oven’s dry, even heat to fully surround that chicken breast (or potatoes or cherry tomatoes) and draw out its natural sugars, producing a crisp brown exterior and an amazingly tender and juicy interior. So you get succulent chicken, crisp potatoes, and tomatoes that taste like candy, all by tossing a few things on a pan and then simply shutting your oven door. Constant stirring? Nope. Chance of hot oil jumping up and viciously splattering your wall, stovetop, or shirt? No, thanks. Browning meat in batches? Who’s got time for that when there are guests to entertain, kids to play with, episodes of the latest cable drama to binge-watch?

Editor’s Note: For a bunch of recipes that embrace the sheet pan—and that you can literally embrace (and trust us, you’ll want to hug these recipes)— buy the book from which the above text is excerpted. Just click on the book cover above. Or if you can’t wait that long and need a quick fix, take a gander at our best sheet pan suppers recipes. Then let us know your tried and true sheet pan strategies in a comment below. Got a photo of your banged up but beloved sheet pan? Share it with us.

Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Molly Gilbert

About Molly Gilbert

Molly Gilbert is the founder of the popular food blog Dunk and Crumble. A graduate of the French Culinary Institute, she's also a cooking instructor, former private chef, and recipe tester in the kitchen of Saveur. She lives in Seattle. Sheet Pan Suppers is her first cookbook.

  1. Beth says:

    Hear hear! My mom adopted this way of cooking some time ago. She hits a couple of bone-in chicken breasts with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and scrubs a few potatoes and cuts ’em up and slices up and onion and tosses those with some grainy mustard, onto a sheet pan everything goes and into the oven. She makes a salad in the meantime, and ta da! Dinner!

    Also, she has a 60-inch Garland stove, so she can accommodate the honkin’ sheet pans if she needs to up her quantities.

  2. Susan says:

    I finally embraced the sheet pan as a miracle of the kitchen when I needed to cook a hard shell winter squash to get at the pulp for a recipe I was auditioning. OMG…Who had made me think it was only for jelly rolls or Texas sheet cake when it was so much more than THAT? It completely helped me to overcome my disdain for preparing winter squash. It had me roasting all kinds of root vegetables and, it that weren’t enough…baking meatballs…and bacon! Wow! What a revelation! I need to read that book!

  3. Preaching to the choir! This is one of my favorite ways of getting a whole meal on the table with minimal fuss and minimal washing up. I generally use either chicken or fish, some root vegetables, fennel or onions, cherry tomatoes and loads of fresh herbs, or a selection of spices. The result is something I’m happy to serve to guests for a casual dinner party and doesn’t take all afternoon to prepare or cook.

  4. Helena Mouta says:

    Portuguese roasts (at least the ones made in the homes of my family) are all sheet pan suppers… Put a whole chicken (or a cut up one, or any other meat or whole fish for that matter), well seasoned, on a bed of sliced onions and garlic, drizzled with a little olive oil. Surround with perfectly seasoned (salt, pepper, paprika, olive oil and white wine) small potatoes, bung in the oven and you’re done! Just a green salad (or the Portuguese go to salad: lettuce, tomatoes and onions), dressed with salt, olive oil and vinegar, and you’ve got a perfect meal! I can’t tell you how often we have a version of this for dinner at home.

    • David Leite says:

      God, now I’m hungry for some of Momma Leite’s roasts, Helene!

      • Helena Mouta says:

        Not to make you even more jealous, but yesterday’s lunch, to celebrate Carnaval, was my mom’s roasted lamb, with potatoes and the delicious “Arroz de forno”. My mom is from the North of Portugal, a village right on the north bank of the Douro, about 80 kms from Oporto, and this is the celebratory dish of that region, and it’s absolute perfection! :)

  5. Audrey says:

    I do what I call “roast dinners” all the time. One of my favorite combos is equal parts butternut squash (unpeeled), brussels sprouts and chicken brats. Two pounds of each fills two half sheet pans. Olive oil, salt & pepper. Done.

  6. Babettef says:

    Who could resist adding a photo..this is mine. Well loved…

    Sheet Pan Suppers

  7. LESLIE says:

    Hey Babettef, I think the twin of your pan is in my cupboard! I recently prepared a sheet pan chicken dish from epicurious that included grapes and fennel as the vegetables. It was amazing, and most definitely guest worthy. Yes, that book is something I also need to check out.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      I think there are lot of twins to this sheet pan, Leslie! Just shows it’s served its purpose well. And yes, please do check out the book.

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