July 11, 2021

The Sheet Pan

Make the humble sheet pan go the extra mile.

My wife and I have the cheapest sheet pans that we got from Target almost 10 years ago. And they’re amazing. I love my sheet pans. ❤️ If you asked me for my top 5 pieces of equipment in the kitchen, they would be on the list. They're an indispensable tool. You need them!

Why You Need Sheet Pans. And What Makes Them Great.

Well first off, cookies. 🍪

Second, off, roasted vegetables. They’re my favorite way to get my greens in.

A sheet pan is superior to a roasting pan in my book. Just like a roasting pan, you get a lot of surface area so your food won’t be overcrowded when it cooks. But the low-profile edges on a sheet pan are what make it better. The edges keep fat and juices in, keeping your oven clean. But they also allow for steam to easily escape. And less steam means better browning. And better browning means more flavor! Not that worried about steam? You should be.

Third, roasting meat.

A sheet pan also works great for roasting a spatchcocked chicken or cooking crispy bacon. You can upgrade your sheet pan by adding a wire rack in the pan to elevate the meat and allow more air to circulate so things turn crispy, not soggy.

Fourth, they can take a beating!

My sheet pans are scratched, scorched, and discolored. And yet they still works like a charm. And did I mention they are cheap? 🤑

How to Get the Most Out of Your Sheet Pan

Now you know why sheet pans are great. Let’s talk about two ways to make them even greater!

Foil? Parchment paper? Naked? 😳

Milk Street did a test. They wanted to answer the time-tested question. To foil, or not to foil?

They actually found that parchment paper works best at making sure vegetables don’t stick to the pan. Sorry foil!

But here’s the thing. Don’t use parchment paper.

Stickage can be a good thing. It allows for a deeper browning. Both foil and parchment paper can get in the way. They act as a barrier. We want direct contact between vegetable and pan. PPE is not needed in the oven! 😷

So for better browning, go naked! 🙌

I will say this. Going without parchment paper or foil makes clean-up a little more challenging. But hey, flavor is worth it! Plus, with a good sheet pan, it’s still not bad. Just give it a nice soak. And it will scrub clean. Easy, peezy. 🍋

Preheat Your Pan

This one is going to change the way you use your sheet pan. Ready?

We preheat a pan before we sear a steak. It helps us get a beautiful, brown crust on the outside before the inside overcooks.

So why not do the same with sheet pans?

Here’s what I do. I throw the sheet pan in the oven while it preheats. Then I thoroughly oil and salt the veggies or meat. If you don’t coat them well in oil ahead of time, you’ll probably get too much stickage and less even browning.

Once the oven has reached the right temperature, I pull out the sheet pan. Then I quickly add the food, making sure everything is flat and spread out. (You’ll hear this amazing sizzle.👂 It’s pretty awesome!)

Remember we want to maximize contact with the pan and reduce overlapping with the other food to prevent steaming. And we want to do it before the pan cools off!

Then you just throw the sheet pan back in the oven and roast things like you would normally. But the side that hit the pan first gets an incredible brown, almost charry color to it.

One last thing. This method works well for vegetables that are NOT high in sugar. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc. all taste sweeter even when they turn almost black. Carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc. will all taste burnt if they get charry. So I usually don’t preheat the pan when I roast them.

Where I learned this: Mostly reading articles and recipes from the folks over at Milk Street.