Tips for building sheet pan dinners:
Select a group of vegetables that cook at the same rate (like sweet potatoes and beets, or mushrooms and asparagus) to avoid overcooking one element or undercooking another.
Think seasonally. Almost any vegetable, however strange from your CSA, can be worked into a sheet pan meal.
If you do want to mix a quick-cooking vegetable with a more sturdy variety (think cherry tomatoes with fingerling potatoes), toss the more delicate one in for the last few minutes of baking.
When in doubt, add a sauce to the finished dish. As most sheet pan meals are a basic mix of meat and vegetables, a simple sauce adds welcomed flavor and texture. Pestos, yogurt-based sauces, salsas, chutneys, and mustard spreads can all be prepared ahead of time or in a matter of minutes just before serving.
Line the sheet pan with foil or parchment paper to make cleanup a breeze.
To add a fresh, raw crunch, sprinkle tender greens like baby arugula, spinach, pea shoots, or sprouts over the top of baked sheet pan meals before serving. Toasted nuts like almonds, pine nuts, and cashews also work.
To crisp up chicken skin, sausage casings, and fish skin, turn on the broiler for the final few minutes of cooking.
Marinades and spice rubs are always a welcomed addition to chicken, fish, tofu, and pork. When you have a few extra minutes, marinate the chicken in the fridge or rub salmon fillets with a spice mixture and chill until dinnertime. Most protein is best marinated for at least an hour and as long as overnight. Look to the ingredients of your meal to steer the marinade or rub flavorings.
Not every part of dinner has to be cooked on the sheet pan. Maybe you roast up a tray of fajita fillings to serve with tortillas or you bake chicken thighs and squash to be served over creamy polenta.
Sheet pan dinners are not just for meat eaters. Sliced tofu or tempeh, a variety of beans, whole sweet potatoes (surround them with sliced vegetables or beans, then use those to stuff the potatoes later), and orchard fruit for ice cream sundaes can all be prepared using this basic method.
Fear fish no more. Sheet pan meals take the intimidation out of preparing fish at home, especially for a crowd. Both individual fillets and large sharing sized portions cook up perfectly on a baking sheet.
Don’t be shy: Toss in herbs or sliced citrus; drizzle over some vinegar; add a splash of dry white wine. Experiment with anything that appeals to you.
Basic guidelines for time and temperature:
This list outlines some complementary ingredients pairings based on cooking time and oven temperature. You’ll also want the vegetables you’re cooking together to be more-or-less the same size to promote even cooking.
400° F for 20 to 30 minutes
Veg: cabbage, carrots, turnips, radicchio, apples
Protein: pork chops
400° F for 35 to 40 minutes
Veg: bell peppers, onions, sweet potatoes,
Protein: sausages (pork, chicken, lamb)
425° F for 15 minutes
Veg: bok choy, green beans, scallions, mushrooms, greens, tomatoes, zucchini, leeks, asparagus, lemon rounds
Protein: fish (salmon fillets, large white fish fillet)
425° F for 20 to 30 minutes
Veg: green beans, eggplant, bell peppers, scallions
425° F for 35 to 45 minutes
Veg: potatoes, fennel, squash, beets, brussels sprouts, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, orange rounds
Protein: chicken pieces (bone in)
How to save time and get ahead:
Sheet pan dinners can easily be partially or fully assembled before mealtime, eliminating the dinner rush.
Over the weekend, wash, peel, and chop the vegetables so they are waiting for you.
The night before, make a sauce to accompany the finished dish and store it in the fridge.
Marinade or spice rub your protein of choice in the morning, then put it in the fridge until dinnertime.
For especially busy nights, assemble the entire sheet pan meal, wrap, and chill in the fridge ready to slide into a hot oven.
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.
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—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.