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How I Fell in Love with Sheet Pan Cooking

Olivia Mateo

June 9, 2022

This week we honor the sheet pan – an essential in every Texas kitchen.

Preparing a family meal can use up every bit of counter space in your kitchen. Meats go on the grill, veggies in a saute pan, and stews in a traditional Dutch oven. These tools and equipment work together like magic, creating an unforgettable meal – as well as a mess of epic proportions!

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to cooking, I find myself more motivated by the result than the process. Indeed, I must admit that the idea of scrubbing greasy pots and pans sometimes gets in the way of wanting to make a family meal from scratch.

With this in mind, I was thrilled to learn about how sheet pans can be used in a multitude of different ways. The sheet pan is, in my opinion, an underrated kitchen tool – one which can be used to cook everything from appetizers to desserts, and all with minimal clean-up. In addition, cooking meals on a sheet pan is super straightforward. Just throw all your ingredients onto the pan, and let the oven do the work. As soon as I realized just how much a sheet pan could do, I fell in love with this simple piece of cookware, and it has been my favorite piece of kitchen equipment ever since.

The Maillard Reaction

What’s a sheet pan?

A sheet pan is an item of kitchenware primarily used for oven cooking. It’s commonly found in both professional settings and traditional home kitchens. Usually made from aluminum or stainless steel, this kitchen workhorse is known to often survive years of use and abuse and still keep on going!

Many Texans lean toward backyard grilling as a go-to cooking method. But there’s something about the simplicity of sheet pan cooking that overpowers my deeply rooted Southern love for barbecues. So, what is it about sheet pans that make them my preferred kitchen companion? The convenience of throwing an unassuming sheet pan filled with anything and everything into a hot oven makes meal preparation crazy simple – in other words, less mess means less stress!

Sheet pan cooking is super convenient after work on weeknights, when it’s most tempting to look for a quick and easy dinner fix (or order takeout!). An entire meal can be assembled, seasoned, and cooked using a single pan, saving time for more important things – like spending time with family and friends.

Why I love sheet pans

What’s not to love? Affordable, versatile, and practically indestructible, there’s very little a sheet pan can’t do. 

This inexpensive piece of kitchen equipment both saves on preparation time and makes clean-up a breeze. Sheet pans are great due to their relatively “hands-off” approach. Sometimes, all you need is your ingredients, an excellent bottle of olive oil, some herbs, salt, and pepper, and you’re sorted!

Sheet Pan Cooking

Cooking tips for sheet pans

The basic concept of sheet pan cooking is to toss seasoned ingredients onto a pan and roast them until tender. Follow these tips to start your stress-free, mess-free love affair with the humble sheet pan. 

  • Poor-quality sheet pans can warp over time. Choose a pan made from heavy-duty aluminum. Investing in a heavy-gauge pan also prevents ingredients from burning quickly.
  • Ingredients and their cooking time matter – make sure to cut all meat and vegetables into even-sized pieces. It’s a good idea to cook the food in stages. Start with food that takes longer to roast, such as meat, and add the rest later on in the cooking process.
  • Keep an eye on the temperature!
  • Turn the sheet pan at least once to ensure even cooking.
  • Avoid reactive foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits.
  • Use parchment paper or foil to prevent ingredients from sticking to the pan. This also helps make clean-up much easier.

Southern sheet pan meal ideas

Sheet pan-cooked meals come with plenty of advantages for the family. Spend less time cooking with these one-pan meal ideas :

Roasted Spatchcock Chicken

1. Roasted spatchcock chicken 

Using a rub of your choice and some olive oil, roast a chicken using the spatchcock method, ensuring that the dark meat cooks through without the rest of the chicken getting dry. Cook the chicken alongside brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, and garlic for a meal the whole family will love.

Soy-glazed Salmon

2. Soy-glazed salmon 

Start by roasting your favorite vegetables. We’re talking asparagus, mushrooms, bell peppers – whatever! Add the salmon filets five to 10 minutes before the end. The high oven heat crisps up the skin without drying out the salmon!

Parmesan-Crusted Eggplant

3. Parmesan crusted eggplant

This quick and easy twist on the broiled eggplant is a winner! Eggplant slices are topped with a mix of parmesan, breadcrumbs, and lemon zest. The crusted eggplant will pair well with a garden salad on the side.

Veggie Frittata

4. Veggie frittata

Sheet pans aren’t just limited to roasted items. A simple sheet pan frittata can make for a great grab-and-go breakfast meal or snack for the kids! Cook the veggies until tender before pouring in the eggs to ensure even cooking throughout the pan. Once cooked, you can enjoy the frittata on its own, serve it on toast, or even in a tortilla. The possibilities are endless!

Texas Sheet Cake

5. Texas sheet cake

The ultimate crowd-pleaser is a Texas sheet cake – a thin, rich chocolate cake with fudgy frosting that solidifies into a candy-like blanket of chocolate, topped with a generous amount of pecans. While the origins of the Texas sheet cake remain a mystery, this old-fashioned dessert is a favorite treat on birthdays, or for just about any other special occasion!

Want to go into sheet pan  cooking? Check out my sheet pan buying guide here!