Of all the pans in my kitchen, I use my sheet pan the most. Not because I’m always roasting vegetables (though, now that you put it that way, I guess I am), but because it’s endlessly, boundlessly versatile, from maximizing your oven space to ensuring crispy crusts.
While most recipes speak to a half sheet—roughly 18 by 13 inches—you can also buy a quarter (half that size) and a full (twice that size). This allows you to tailor recipes to your crowd, or lack thereof. If there’s anything cuter than a quarter sheet pan meal, just for me, I don’t know it, and I don’t want to.
Here are six of our favorite ways to put these workhorses, well, to work:
1. Make your proteins and sides work together.
I love cooking after getting home from work. But I don’t love doing dishes after cooking after getting home from work. Sheet pan suppers, which cook all components—on one dish! in the oven!—ask next to nothing of you. My favorite method: Start with the vegetables, then layer the meat on top. This way, the meat bastes everything with its rendering fat.
2. Find a new way to salad.
Who said salads have to be raw? Lately, some of our favorite recipes put lettuce on the back burner—you know, figuratively—and let other vegetables have their moment in the sun. This is a wonderful way to show off seasonal produce, like eggplant or, fast-forward to colder months, butternut squash.
3. Capitalize on crispy and crunchy.
Casseroles usually live in baking dishes, which average around a couple inches in depth. Translating these ooey-gooey recipes—from mac and cheese to oniony green beans—to a shallow sheet pan maximizes all that crispy, crunchy, golden-brown goodness, which, if you ask me, is the best part.
4. Make a giant—like, really giant—sandwich.
Sheet pan bread is the best thing since sliced bread, am I right or am I right? Instead of having to assemble sandwich after sandwich after sandwich, you assemble one big guy, then cut into squares or rectangles. Closed variations are great for picnics. Open-faced, for at-home gatherings.
5. Simplify brunch: Less stress. More mimosas!
Scrambling one or two eggs for myself is one of my favorite need-food-now meals. Cooking eggs—and all their fixings—for more people is more complicated. But it doesn’t have to be! Alexandra Stafford's crowd-friendly bacon and egg sandwiches use a sheet pan three (yes, three!) different ways. Or, make an Americana breakfast to share with your sweetie.
6. Upgrade desserts from individual to large format.
Every summer, we come back to shortcakes, filled with syrupy fruit and dolloped with cream, and s’mores, melty with chocolate and charred with marshmallows. This summer, we found a way to streamline both. Can you guess it? Can you? Okay: It’s a sheet pan. Turn to both of these for the least fussy backyard BBQ.
What’s your favorite way to use your sheet pan? Tell us in the comments below!