Crispy, Speedy Chicken Dinner, All in a Sheet Pan's Work

January  8, 2018

Many sheet pan chicken recipes are deceptively alluring. They breezily suggest you fill your trusty sheet pan full of chicken and assorted ingredients, put it in the oven, go do whatever you need to do (laundry, exercise, you name it!), and come back later to a perfectly cooked, wholesome dinner. But when drawn in by this promise, I’m usually let down. Sometimes the chicken is done way before the vegetables (or vice versa), the ingredients steam instead of brown, or the whole deal takes a lot more time in the oven than advertised. This set-it-and-forget-about-it approach works well for slow cookers, but not for one-pan chicken dinners, which need more care and attention to coax out the best flavors of very different ingredients.

So I did what I do whenever I want a better approach: I set out on a little research project, gathering tips and tricks for better sheet pan chicken from smart people across the food world. I combined the best strategies into one recipe—this roasted sheet pan chicken with broccoli, chickpeas, and parmesan. It’s speedier, crispier sheet pan chicken, with lots of boldly-flavored ingredients to keep the meal square and interesting. The tips and tricks behind this dinner’s deliciousness are listed below, in the order that they’re used in the recipe.

1. Add baking powder for better browning. Dry the chicken well (I like to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs) and rub a mixture of baking powder, salt, and other seasonings all over the chicken to promote browning and crispier skin. It’s a trick often used for chicken wings. Baking powder raises the chicken’s pH level so the proteins break down more efficiently, leading to better browning (via Serious Eats).

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2. Sear the chicken in the oven. Place an empty sheet pan in the oven while it heats to 500° F. Start the chicken skin-side down on the hot sheet pan (it’ll sizzle and start to sear when it hits the pan), then lower the heat to 425° F. Wait about 15 minutes before flipping the chicken, or until the fat from the skin has rendered (via Simply Recipes Sheet Pan Chicken with Roasted Broccoli and Potatoes).

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Top Comment:
“Hi! Is there an easy way of preserving lemon 🍋 peel and/or a quick reference for purchasing in NYC? I would really love to make this today! Thanks!”
— Zahra L.

3. Add big, bold flavors. Add diced preserved lemon peel to the pan drippings to up the boldness, brightness, and complexity of the whole dish (via Canal House’s Chicken Thighs with Lemon).

4. Stagger entry of ingredients. Nestle the broccoli, chickpeas, and sun-dried tomatoes amongst the chicken thighs after they’ve been flipped. For best results, cut the broccoli into really small pieces to create more surface area for browning and ensure a quick roast (via Melissa Clark and many others).

5. Boost browning (again!). Sprinkle parmesan over the entire dish for its final roasting time to enhance browning and flavor (via Diana Henry’s One Pot Parmesan Roast Chicken and Cauliflower).

6. Crisp vegetables while the chicken rests. Spread the broccoli, chickpeas, and sun-dried tomatoes evenly across the sheet pan (tossing them a few times in the pan drippings) and return them to the oven for a few extra minutes; they’ll get browner, crispier, and more delicious.

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Thanks to the rocket-hot sheet pan, this is one of the speediest sheet pan chicken dinners I’ve made. The high heat not only benefits the chicken but the broccoli, chickpeas, and sun-dried tomatoes, too (the little bits of crispy-chewy, almost burnt sun-dried tomatoes are absolutely addictive). Set a timer twice when making this dinner—the first time to remind yourself to flip the chicken, and the second time to check its doneness—so there are no surprises, or burnt dinner!

This may not be a set-it-and-forget-about type of dinner, but it’s simple to make and can be on the table in less than an hour. With a little attention to detail (and a few smart tricks), all of us can consistently prepare a better sheet pan chicken dinner. And with results this good, the laundry can always wait until tomorrow.

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Written by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.


Kelsey January 29, 2018
Great tips! Sounds delicious.
e January 12, 2018
If using chicken breasts (skin-on and bone-in), should I alter the recipe?
Author Comment
EmilyC January 12, 2018
They should work fine in the recipe as written though I’d check them a bit sooner for doneness (since white meat is a less forgiving than dark meat if it’s overcooked). Hope you enjoy!!
Blork January 12, 2018
Are you sure you mean baking powder and not baking soda? Baking powder raises acidity (i.e., lowers pH) while baking soda raises pH. It's actually a bit more complicated than that, because it depends on the starting point of the acidity level, but if the starting point is neutral then baking soda will raise the pH.
Author Comment
EmilyC January 12, 2018
Yes, baking powder!! I’d suggest reading the Serious Eats article I linked to above, plus google Kenji Lopez-Alt’s article on oven-fried buffalo wings. He tried both baking soda and baking powder and found they both promoted browning but the baking soda produced an off-flavor, among other things.
pottsy.1990 January 12, 2018
Excited to try this one! Thanks for breaking down the recipe with all those useful little tips :)
Author Comment
EmilyC January 12, 2018
You’re very welcome! : )
Clara January 12, 2018
This recipe looks great! Is there a way to use other vegetables in this dish? Like carrots, zucchini, onions. eggplant and squash?
Author Comment
EmilyC January 12, 2018
Yes! You’ll want to sub vegetables that cook at about the same rate as broccoli—or shave/slice/shred ones with longer cooking times (e.g., shave carrots into coins), or parcook (boil potatoes or whole carrots until almost tender, then proceed with recipe). Hope this helps!!
Mickey0627 January 12, 2018
Zahadi's in Brooklyn has really good preserved lemons.
Zahra L. January 12, 2018
Hi! Is there an easy way of preserving lemon 🍋 peel and/or a quick reference for purchasing in NYC? I would really love to make this today! Thanks!
Author Comment
EmilyC January 12, 2018
Hi Zahra: I don't know of any quick way of preserving lemon peel, but you should be able to find jars of preserved lemons at Whole Foods and many other supermarkets. I'm in the DC area, but the Whole Foods around me often have preserved lemons on the olive bar so you can buy them individually (so handy). Worst case, if you can't find it, finely grate the zest of one large lemon and toss it in with the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, and chickpeas before roasting. It'll still be good! : )
Zahra L. January 12, 2018
Awesome! Thanks Emily! Going to WF now. :-) I love Sahadi's also.
Jade D. January 12, 2018
Mark Bittman has a great recipe for quick preserved lemons:
Ann M. January 12, 2018
Preserved lemons are incredibly easy to make and you should (so that you can make extra to share!). A jar, Meyer lemons and LOTS of salt is all you need. Ready in four weeks.
rstaffel January 12, 2018
I follow this recipe every winter when Meyer Lemons are on sale: