You know you’re supposed to be eating more vegetables, but it’s winter and you are staring down the barrel of some ugly, knobby, hard seasonal vegetables. (Solution: The sheet pan.)
You have only about half an hour to make dinner when you get home from work. The babysitter will turn the oven to 425 and leave the chicken out at room temperature, but you have to do the rest, and fast. (Solution: The sheet pan.)
Is it possible that all her in-laws are coming over at once for brunch? (Solution: The sheet pan.)
All of these scenarios have happened to us, and in every instance, the sheet pan was the fix. Once you start getting familiar with this kitchen workhorse, it’s a little difficult to envision how you lived without it. Flat and wide like a cookie sheet, but with a substantial lip and a sturdy constitution, it’s tougher than a cookie sheet (which doesn’t have much of a rim). It comes in handy when you don’t want round foods to slip off the edge. (Cookies tend to stay put; knobby potatoes and cherry tomatoes do not!) Sheet pans are ideal for catching juice that might come out of meat, oil you’ve used to slick vegetables, and any other juicy bits.
Here’s the terminology to look for when you’re buying, plus what to cook in these beauties.
Quarter sheet pan
Generally about 9 inches by 13 inches, with a lip of about an inch, these sheet pans (which you can buy with a rack that fits right in them, as you can with half-sheet pans) are excellent for small ovens and big ones alike. You can often nestle one in right next to a half-sheet pan if you’d like to make, say, extra potatoes in your one-pan chicken-and-broccolini dish.
Half sheet pan
Its name is a misnomer; the “half sheet pan” is only named as such because a full sheet pan (see below) is huge! This “baking sheet,” as it’s sometimes called, typically measures 13 by 18 inches wide, and is the one you want to stock up on. Again, some versions come with racks, in case you want to suspend chicken thighs above vegetables roasting below. You’ll use these for sheet cakes, big-batch frittatas, single-pan dinners, gorgeous tarts, brittles, barks, and more. (See below for some favorites.)
Full sheet pan
These are the pans you see in restaurant kitchens, stacked vertically on rolling carts and sometimes wrapped in plastic before they’re shoved into a walk-in. They’re ideal for chefs doing prep and making large amounts of food, but most of us—not all—would have a tricky time wrangling them into our own ovens. That’s why we stock a three-quarter sheet pan instead: It has plenty of space but will still fit in a home oven.
Sliced steak, onions, and bell peppers nestle together for a fajita roast that caramelizes all the players. Tuck them into warm tortillas, top with avocado and lime, and dinner is ready.
Sauté your favorite (or really any leftover) vegetables and season them to taste. Pour about a dozen scrambled eggs over them in a parchment-lined sheet pan. Dot with soft cheese and bake at 375 for about 45 minutes, or until the top is set. Voila! Frittata for a crowd. (We love this recipe at The Kitchn.)
Wow. We know raspberries aren’t at most markets until spring, but when you see a beautiful sheet cake like this one, it’s almost hard to think about what else we could make for Valentine’s Day!
Storebought, frozen puff pastry is the key to this easy but stunning dessert, which layers a gorgeous almond frangipane with delicate golden and ruby apples.
There’s just something about being able to feed a larger crowd by making a big dessert on a wide surface. When it’s this peach-blackberry ginger slab pie, you will get absolutely zero complaints. The pan results in the perfect crust-to-filling ratio and it tastes as delicious with frozen, thawed fruit as it does with seasonal picks.