What’s Inside: Pro Tips for Easy Sheet Pan Dinners to Save You Time and Effort. Download the printable Sheet Pan Meal Formula to stick on your fridge!
That lull between lunch and dinner seems to drag until… BOOM. Dinnertime hits, your stomach is growling, and you’re praying you to have something in the fridge that’s ready to go.
You open up the fridge to find some random veggies and half-used cans of coconut milk. Cool.
If you’re a fan of tossing together a meal with little effort, little dishes to wash, and lots of flavors… like me, I’ve got you covered. I used to be a bit of a “one-sheet pan meal” skeptic… I just didn’t see how it could be tasty, but new Mom life has forced me to find ways to be crafty with my time and energy and I’ve grown to LOVE sheet pan dinners. In fact, I created quite a few recipes in the latest Mindful Meals edition (my 6-week anti-inflammatory meal plan and meal prep guide). They’re easy, delicious, and save time both in prep, cooking, and clean up.
This doesn’t mean sheet pan dinner recipes are all created equal or are foolproof by any means. There’s plenty that could go wrong… ever crave a pale, half-cooked piece of chicken mixed with some burned-to-a-crisp broccoli florets?
Not on my watch.
With the tips below (and this printable sheet for your fridge), you’ll feel like a pro and be more comfortable making your own fully-cooked, tasty creations with whatever protein and veggies you have on hand.
Bonus: Download this Sheet Pan Formula Infographic to stick on your fridge. It’s the only sheet pan recipe you’ll ever need to use with ingredients you have on hand!
6 Pro Tips to Make The Best, Easy Sheet Pan Dinners
1. Have The Right Tools.
Go-to sheet pans with racks and unbleached parchment paper are key. I love these pans and recommend at least having 2 on hand.
Racks are helpful if you want more circular heating or crispy skin (like in this thigh recipe). Parchment paper is great to help with easy cleanup!
2. Mind Your Cook Times.
You’ll want to pair proteins and veggies that have similar cook times if you’re placing everything on the same sheet pan at the same time. If that’s not possible, just plan to add them in stages and organize the pan accordingly.
You can also cut up your protein, like chicken breast into tenderloins or “nuggets” to match the size of the veggies, like broccoli or cauliflower florets to get them to a closer cook time — you just want the thickness to be similar and use a thermometer to be sure of when your meat/fish is done!
Make use of kitchen timers and/or the timer on your mobile device to keep track of when to either flip, remove, or add to the pan(s).
3. Use Multiple Pans.
It’s not cheating to use 2 or more pans, if one is utilizing a rack for example or if you’re cooking for an army, want leftovers or are meal prepping… why not maximize your efforts?
4. Use Your Convection Setting (if you have one) and Your Broiler!
The convection setting uses a fan inside the oven to circulate the air, which results in faster AND more even cooking. Definitely try it if you have it!
As for your broiler, this is a great way to crisp things up towards the end of cooking, just don’t go too far and watch it like a HAWK to prevent burning.
5. Have Fun With Seasonings & Don’t Be Cheap With The Oil.
As for the best oils to bake/roast with at 350-400f degrees, I love to use Avocado Oil for a mild flavor (refined is better for higher temps), Animal Fat such as Beef Tallow or Duck Fat (especially for vegetables to add more flavor and works well on higher temps), and/or Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Olive oil is best cooked on lower heat or eaten raw, but if the food is not at a smoke point, it’s likely safe (source).
It’s not a perfect science, I’d say, so go with your gut and what makes you comfortable — as long as all your oils/fats are well-sourced and are good quality. Your oils should be stored away from heat and warm areas of your kitchen (like on top of your fridge or above your oven are NOT good areas to store them), the bottles should be dark, and olive oil should have a packaged date on it — ideally within the last year, it does go rancid when it ages. It’s also best sourced from the Mediterranean.
Animal fat sources should match what we’d consider ideal meat sourcing, grass-fed and finished beef tallow for example and organic avocado oil.
Make sure you’re not skimping out and there’s a healthy coating of oil so your food doesn’t come out dry.
As for seasonings… have fun! Whether you’re using the same seasonings like garlic powder, oregano, etc. for all your veggies and proteins or you’re switching it up, get creative! I love using garlic powder, turmeric, sea salt, black pepper, dried oregano, and various blends! You can either haphazardly sprinkle seasonings and oil directly onto your food on the pan or mix them in a large bowl.
6. Accessorize Your Meal.
Quick food processor sauces like pesto, your favorite dressings, or a simple squeeze of lemon juice add a nice touch to the end. Toss together a quick side salad or throw your meal on top of spinach or kale to wilt them for an even more nutrient-dense meal with little to no effort.
There you have it, tips to turn any sheet-pan skeptic into a savvy, well-fed believer. If you enjoyed and plan to use these tips, I’d love to hear about your experience! Comment below and tag me in your food pics (it’s my love language). Don’t forget to adorn your fridge with my handy-dandy Sheet Pan Formula Sheet!