It's the classic weeknight dinner dilemma: You don't have the energy to use and then wash a mountain of pots and pans, it's too late to start up the slow cooker and you're dangerously close to being on a first-name basis with the pizza delivery person. Have no fear, the humble sheet pan will save the day!
Not only will these one-pan meals save you time and energy, they're endlessly versatile. "What can you not put on a sheet pan?" says Maya Feller, RD, CDN, owner of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition. The customizable nature of a sheet-pan dinner means she's able to easily create a delicious, nutritious meal or batch cook and refrigerate leftovers for later in the week.
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Balance the macronutrients on your sheet pan like you would on a dinner plate, Feller says. That means a heavy emphasis on vegetables with a moderate portion of protein and healthy fat — which, for sheet-pan dinners, usually comes in the form of extra-virgin olive oil.
There are two important components to keep in mind for a perfectly cooked pan of food: consistency and timing. Cut your ingredients into consistent sizes to help ensure even cooking, and consider how long it will take the various items on your sheet to cook through. Keep scrolling for all the details.
Step 1: Start With Root Vegetables
Root vegetables are the heart of a sheet-pan meal. Many also fall into the more widely known starchy veggie category. While starchy vegetables often get a bad rap, they're actually loaded with fiber and other nutrients.
Feller's favorites are sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips and butternut squash, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with fresh thyme and rosemary. "I really love the taste, and I love the color combination all together," she says. "I eat as much with my eyes as with my stomach, so all the colors together are a visual cue that I'm getting a wide variety of nutrients."
Aim for 1/4 pound per person, or 1 pound to serve four. Cut root veggies into uniform pieces — approximately 1/2-inch works best. Choose from any of the following:
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
To make your sheet-pan meal, you’ll need a half-size sheet pan (we like the Nordic Ware 2-Pack, $30.46, Amazon.com), which measures 18 by 13 inches with 1-inch-high sides. Keep aluminum foil and parchment paper on hand to line the pan to make clean-up even faster.
Step 2: Add Other Vegetables
To complete your rainbow of colorful veggies, pick more produce from the non-starchy vegetable category.
Feller's favorites are Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic or cauliflower with curry powder or cumin. Aim for 1 cup per person, or 4 cups to serve four. If you're using dark leafy greens, up the amount to 1 1/4 cups per person, or 6 cups for four.
The following vegetables are included in this category:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Green beans
- Broccoli, cut into florets
- Cauliflower, cut into florets
- Asparagus, halved
- Mushrooms, halved
- Brussels sprouts, halved
- Onions, cut into 1-inch wedges
- Peppers, sliced into 1-inch wedges or strips
- Summer squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Dark leafy greens, chopped
Step 3: Pick a Protein
Your choice of protein determines how long you'll need to cook your sheet-pan meal. As a general rule of thumb, checking the internal temperature will guarantee your food is cooked through. Grab a meat thermometer and look out for the below:
- Poultry: 165 degrees Fahrenheit
- Beef: 155 degrees Fahrenheit
- Pork: 145 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit
- Seafood: 145 degrees Fahrenheit
Aim for 4 to 5 ounces per person, or approximately 1 pound for 4 servings. These proteins work best in a sheet-pan meal:
- Poultry: chicken or turkey cutlets or boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Pork: boneless pork chops or pork tenderloin
- Beef: skirt steak
- Fish: thicker fillets such as cod, salmon, halibut or arctic char
- Shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Tofu or tempeh, cut into 1-inch-thick slices
Step 4: Season With Spice Mixtures
Experiment with whatever flavors you like. Remember, it's easier to start with a lower amount of spices and seasonings and add more as you go, because you can't get rid of it once it's there.
Look to use around 1 to 3 teaspoons total, depending on your taste preferences, of any of these options:
- Chili powder
- Curry powder
- Five spice powder
- Herbs de Provence
- Everything bagel seasoning
- Italian seasoning
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
In addition to spices, be sure to include 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a pinch of ground black pepper throughout the cooking process.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line your sheet pan with foil or parchment paper.
- Toss root vegetables with oil, salt and pepper. Spread evenly on the sheet pan in a single layer. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then remove.
- Toss other vegetables with oil and mix with root vegetables.
- Sprinkle spices on all vegetables and your protein.
- Add a pinch of salt and pepper to your protein. Place the protein on the vegetables or nestle it in between vegetables if there's room.
- Place the pan in the oven and cook until the protein is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, approximately 10 to 20 minutes more, depending on the protein.
- Add garnish and serve.
Step 5: Garnish
Every dish can use a little something special to add a pop of flavor, color and texture. Here are some ideas to get you started:
of citrus juice
- Spritz of vinegar
- Toasted nuts or seeds
- Fresh chopped herbs
- Goat cheese
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