In my imagination, Melissa Clark is developing one of the 200 recipes for her newest opus, Dinner: Changing the Game, when she stops and calls, "Ah, sheet pan!" and beckons the handy tool, yet again, to streamline a recipe. A dish suddenly goes from multi-dish to one-dish, oven to table. Clean-up gets cleaner. Cook time is chiller. Ah, shit, man sheet pan.
Here are some of the wisest ways Melissa uses a sheet pan in her book. We've dedicated a whole section to chicken dinners because of her singular contributions to the field—there could be a whole chapter in Dinner called "Cooking with Chicken Fat." (We have already thanked her for you.)
Cook bone-in chicken pieces and all the other ingredients at the same time. So that everything’s done on time, cut sturdier ingredients (like potatoes) into small, uniform pieces. Add any delicate ingredients—like leeks—at the end, like in this harissa chicken with potato and leek recipe.
Rip the skin off chicken and let it crisp on one half of the sheet pan while the chicken and its sauce cooks on the other side. You end up with moist chicken and little skin cracklings.
Roast a whole chicken on a sheet pan until nearly fully roasted. Then toss ingredients into the rendered chicken fat and stick the pan back in the oven until the chicken's cooked. In the book, Melissa does this with spiced plums, olives, grapes on the vine, lemon slices, and chickpeas. Serve the ingredients alongside the chicken as a side—or…
….take it one step further and turn the accoutrements into a warm salad. Toss greens (like baby kale, or spinach, or watercress) with the ingredients right on the baking sheet so they slightly wilt.
….remove everything from the pan except the pan juices, set the pan on two burners (yep, right on the stove), and make a pan sauce in the sheet pan.
"Grilled" Meats & Friends: When a grill’s not an option, turn on your broiler and broil (not roast) steak, lamb or pork chops, or kebabs until nicely charred. Just as you'd do on a grill, you could throw on onions, fruit (like peaches), or greens so they get a good char as well.
Meatballs: Broil meatballs 4 inches from the heat source for about 7 minutes, depending on the type of meat used. They’ll be moist inside and crisp outside.
Sausages: Bake sausages alongside hearty vegetables (like cauliflower or cabbage) or peppers and onions.
Pizza: Pretend your sheet pan is a quasi-pizza peel—flip it over, build your pizza right on it, then bake your pizza right on the pan.
Oven Quesadillas: This is the smartest way to make lots of quesadillas at once! Oil one side of six or so tortillas, then put them oil side down on a baking sheet. Pile up the tortillas with your quesadilla fillings, top with an ungreased tortilla and brush the tops with olive oil. Broil until nice and browned.
Salsa: Dry-roast all the ingredients for a salsa—Melissa uses onion, tomatillo, garlic, jalapeño, poblano—to mimic charring on a stove, but in a hands-off way. You could also conceivably do this with eggplant to make baba ganoush.
Fish: Crisp mushrooms or another vegetable on a sheet pan, then push them aside and add fish (Melissa has recipes that use hake and salmon in the book). Bake just a few minutes, until the fish is cooked through.
Vegetables & Nuts: Five or so minutes before your roasted vegetables are done, toss nuts onto the pan on top of the vegetables, then stick the pan back in the oven. That way, you don't have to toast your nuts separately—a-ha!
Bready Things: Roll cracker dough directly on the sheet pan to avoid cleaning one more thing. Toast croutons on a sheet pan instead of in a stove-top skillet. Up the ante by adding chopped chicken skin to the torn bread. The skin will render and crisp while it bakes, the fat will coat the croutons.
Dinner is available wherever books are sold. Emily Stephenson contributed to this story.
Tell us: What are your go-to sheet pan meals?
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).