Sheet Pan

The $10 Chicken Sheet-Pan Dinner I Make to Feed My Family of Four

by:
September 10, 2018

I gave my trusty sheet pan and oven a little break over the hottest part of the summer. But with summer winding down, and life ramping up, I’m calling them back into action. My kids headed back to school (and their various after-school activities) following Labor Day, and my husband and I are now entering busy seasons at work, so I’m arming myself with as many easy, inexpensive, and delicious sheet pan dinners—the kind where everything is roasted on a single, rimmed sheet—as possible.

Dinners just like this. Photo by Ty Mecham

This is precisely why I came up with this Roasted Sheet Pan Chicken with Figs and Bread Salad. It’s not only a meal my whole family enjoys, it’s something I can easily manage on harried weeknights because both prep and clean-up are a breeze. Plus, for those weeks when I haven’t shopped ahead (which happens when weekends are busy, too!), I can easily grab what I need at the grocery store around the corner from me—no hard-to-find or pricey ingredients needed.

It’s inspired by two recipes from Judy Rodgers’ The Zuni Café Cookbook I’ve been making for years. From the Braised Chicken with Figs, Honey, and Vinegar, I took that that perfect tart-sweet combo of figs, honey, and vinegar. And from the Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad, I pulled out the glorious bread salad full of schmaltzy croutons and fresh greens. Then, I turned the whole thing into the most streamlined one-pan dinner I could imagine.

A few tips and tricks make this one especially easy and inexpensive:

  • Get a leg up: Quicker cooking and cheaper than breasts and thighs, drumsticks are ideal for sheet pan dinners because they roast quickly and evenly. Plus their naturally compact size leaves plenty of sheet pan real estate for the other good stuff!
  • Make a triple-threat vinaigrette: One scrappy vinaigrette—just honey, vinegar, and olive oil—is used three times: to slick the chicken before it heads to the broiler, to flavor the bread, figs, and onions before they’re added to the pan, and to dress the arugula right before serving.
  • Jumpstart your drumsticks: By starting rather than finishing your drumsticks under the broiler, you get crispy, golden skin and cut down on roasting time in a hot oven...a very good thing while it’s still hot outside. Plus, many ovens (mine included) reach desired temperatures faster after the broiling element has been used.
  • Plump up dried figs: Dried figs cost less than fresh ones—and as much as I adore the latter, they’re in-season for such a short time and super perishable. By macerating dried figs in vinegar and hot water, they plump up nicely and taste just as delicious when roasted.
  • Make the crispiest croutons: Because the croutons are added to the pan after broiling the drumsticks, they have just the right amount of time to get ultra-crispy (without burning) and to soak up the fatty, delicious drippings.
  • Toss in greens: A few big handfuls of arugula add so much freshness and brightness. But if other greens are closer at hand (kale, spinach, mustard greens), reach for them instead.

I had affordability in mind when developing this recipe, but even I was pleasantly surprised when I did the math. (The breakdown is based on a recent grocery run of mine in Arlington, VA, but it’ll obviously vary by store and region.)

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Next time I make it, I think I'll MARINATE the chicken in the oil/vinegar/honey mixture for a couple hours to develop a more intense flavor in the chicken. Also, definitely, make extra vinaigrette. I agree that it should be on the tart side to balance the sweetness of the figs. I like the idea of sheet pan meals and would like to try more of them. Thanks.”
— Linda
Comment

$3.00 worth of chicken drumsticks (2 pounds, about 8 to 10, at $1.50 per pound)
83 cents’ worth of olive oil ($10.36 per bottle)
5 cents’ worth of apple cider vinegar (99 cents a bottle)
20 cents’ worth of honey ($2.99 per squeezy bear)
25 cents’ worth of yellow onion (a small one)
$2.60 worth of dried figs ($3.50 per bag)
$1.75 worth of peasant bread ($3.49 per loaf)
$1.00 worth of arugula ($2.99 per bag)

Total for four servings: $9.68...making the total cost per serving $2.42.

No matter where you live, this dinner is cheaper than pizza delivery, takeout, or fast food, or those meal kits designed for the busiest types of nights. And for just how easy and inexpensive this meal is, it tastes anything but. It’s a combination of flavors and textures I can’t get enough of, and filling enough to satisfy on its own, no sides needed.

I’m keeping this recipe close at hand as we head into the fall. There are so many things within the span of a week that are completely out of my control, but a good, affordable dinner isn’t one of them.


Another Chicken Winner

What's your best budget-friendly meal? Share recipes in the comments below!

16 Comments

Linda September 18, 2018
I made this dish tonight...I like it...very different, tasty and interesting. I used bone-in, skin-on thighs. Next time I make it, I think I'll MARINATE the chicken in the oil/vinegar/honey mixture for a couple hours to develop a more intense flavor in the chicken. Also, definitely, make extra vinaigrette. I agree that it should be on the tart side to balance the sweetness of the figs. I like the idea of sheet pan meals and would like to try more of them. Thanks.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC September 18, 2018
Glad you liked it, Linda! Your marinating idea is a great one for those nights when you’ve got the time (or have planned ahead)!! If you’re looking for other sheet pan dinners, there are lots of good ones on this site!! Happy cooking! : )
 
Peanut September 17, 2018
In NYC, the prices are (understandably) roughly double - it costs out to $16.55, or $4.16 for each of four servings, using organic chicken from Whole Foods at $3.49/lb.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC September 17, 2018
Wow, interesting! I can get drumsticks at my Whole Foods for $1.50/lb when buying the family packs. When I visited my parents in southern IL about a month ago, drumsticks were well under $1.00 per pound. Goes to show how much prices differ across the country!
 
Kathryn L. September 16, 2018
Could you use cooked spinach for the salad? I don’t care for the salad greens you used in your recipe, although I do want to try the recipe for all the other parts. I love fresh steamed spinach with a touch of vinager. The recipe sounds delightful!
 
Author Comment
EmilyC September 17, 2018
Sure! Baby spinach would be a great substitute for the arugula. I like the pop of freshness that the raw greens add, but I think lightly steamed spinach would go nicely as well!
 
KJain September 16, 2018
What could you use in place of the bread? I'm looking for low-gluten/low-carb substitutes. Sweet potato that I've pre-cooked a little?
 
Author Comment
EmilyC September 17, 2018
Pre-cooked sweet potato or winter squash would be nice, I think! Let me know if you try it this way!
 
Linda September 16, 2018
I would imagine dried apricots could be used in place of figs?
 
Author Comment
EmilyC September 16, 2018
Hi Linda! I’ve never tried other dried fruits in this dish but I think apricots would be delicious, as would dates! If you go this direction, please report back!
 
Rosie September 18, 2018
I tried a mix of apricots and dates.. I would leave out the apricots next time (and there will be a next time) the dates were amazing
 
Author Comment
EmilyC September 18, 2018
Good to know!! Thanks for sharing, Rosie!
 
Krissy B. September 16, 2018
This looks delicious! But I’ve never seen those items cost so little! Also how do you only use a quarter bag of arugula?! I eat half a bag for salad just by myself!
 
Author Comment
EmilyC September 16, 2018
Hi Krissy! These prices are based on a recent run to Harris Teeter and Safeway, but they’re consistent with my local Whole Foods, as well. (I was surprised by how cheap drumsticks are compared to other cuts!) You could probably save a little on the figs if getting them from the bulk bin. And I usually use about 1/3 bag of arugula (a few big handfuls)—not nearly as much as it takes to make a salad for four.
 
FrugalCat September 10, 2018
The drumsticks were cheap but the figs were expen$ive. A winner overall. Yum!!
 
Author Comment
EmilyC September 11, 2018
Glad you liked it, FrugalCat! Thanks for your note!