When it comes to weeknight recipes, there’s only one thing our test kitchen loves even more than a one-pot meal, and that’s a sheet pan dinner. And in that category of sheet pan dinners, there’s one meal that reigns supreme: fajitas.
“Sheet pan cooking is super popular right now—there are a bunch of cookbooks hitting the market,” culinary director Amanda Haas tells us, adding, “Fajitas are a fun dinner because you can really make them your own.”
We crashed the test kitchen’s most recent fajita run-through to find out just what makes the meal so ideal for a weeknight—and to bring you these six useful pointers for making great fajitas every time.
Do the work ahead of time.
To cut down on dinner prep the night of, chop, mix and marinate your vegetables and meat the night before. (Marinating your chicken, beef or other meat will also help tenderize it.) If the whole planning-the-night-before thing doesn’t happen, though, don’t sweat it! The test kitchen cooks assure us it’ll still be an A+ meal.
Slicing onions for the fajitas? Try this trick.
Fajitas aren’t fajitas without onions, but slicing the alliums can be—quite literally—a painful experience. Thankfully, Amanda wowed us with a new kitchen hack that we can’t wait to try: Next time you’re slicing or cutting onions for fajitas, turn on a gas flame next to you; the sulfur in the flame will disable the compounds in onions that make your eyes water!
If you’re going for a healthy weeknight meal, don’t overlook your choice of oil.
The cooks of the Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen love antioxidant-rich extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil. Should you plan to use canola oil instead, make sure it’s made with organic rapeseed—if it’s not, it may have been farmed using pesticides, Amanda cautions.
Buy an inexpensive cut of beef—but be sure to slice it thinly.
If you’re making classic fajitas, there’s no need to splurge on high-end beef cuts like ribeye or tenderloin. Instead, buy affordable cuts that are big on flavor. Amanda loves to use skirt, which boasts tons of flavor as well as a nice meat-to-fat ratio. When she’s in the mood for something lighter, she turns to flank steak. While the lean cut is heart-healthier, she cautions that it can also be quite tough if not handled correctly. To make sure that doesn’t happen, marinate flank steak the night before, then bust out the best of your knife skills by cutting the meat into fine slices. “When you cut tough cuts of meat into really thin slices, it changes them for the better,” she says.
It’s all about the time and the place.
If you don’t mind your meat tender but pink on the inside, aim for a cook time of about 8 minutes at 425ºF. Keep it in the oven for 12-15 minutes if you’re more into meat that’s well done. Test kitchen cook Inken Chrisman likes to cook sheet pan meat at the top of the oven; because it’s hotter than the bottom of the oven, it’s prime real estate for achieving those crispy and caramelized edges.
Experiment with different proteins, vegetables and spices for entirely different flavor profiles.
Inken makes her beef fajitas rich in umami with a marinade made of oil, garlic, honey, cumin, coriander, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce, and then she tops her fajitas with avocado and lime juice. Amanda loves to mix in sliced mushrooms and scallions to the typical onion-and-pepper mix—then, four minutes before it’s ready to come out of the oven, she adds in peeled, deveined shrimp to avoid overcooking it.
In the mood to make your own tonight? Get the recipe for beef fajitas. Want more easy weeknight supper ideas? Then check out more easy sheet pan dinners.