Sheet pan meals: A simple, flavorful way to get dinner on the table fast

Tired after a long day at the office? Sheet pan meal to the rescue! Just chop/assemble, season, roast, serve and savor.
Published March 16 2015
Updated March 18 2015

The dream dinner after a long, cold day of cubicles and commutes is something warm, simple and fast. A dish that's easy to cook and to clean up, and scrumptious enough to satisfy your soul.

Enter the sheet pan meal, a new spin on the one-pot meals Martha Stewart helped popularize in which various ingredients are thrown into a pot and come out a complete home-cooked meal.

Sheet pan dinners take the concept a step further in terms of flavor and versatility: Meats and veggies alike develop divine flavor from roasting and broiling. Half an hour in a high-temperature oven can do wonders for everything from carrots and sweet potatoes to chicken legs and salmon.

Plus, it's a low-fuss yet rewarding way to get dinner on the table in a hurry. The steps are blessedly easy, with a formula you can follow every time and even novice or harried cooks can embrace: chop/assemble, season, roast, serve.

The ease is what drew food blogger Molly Gilbert, author of Sheet Pan Suppers (Workman, December 2014), to the idea.

"I realized how much you could do in one pan," Gilbert, 30, said. "And roasting brings out the gut flavors of produce and meat. It's tough to beat that roasty flavor."

For optimal cooking results, Gilbert says to make sure you have a really solid, large aluminum or stainless steel sheet pan, nothing lightweight. This thing needs to withstand 450-degree temperatures. And while that extreme heat does most of the work for you, Gilbert also suggests using plenty of olive oil and "don't be too shy with the salt and pepper."

"It's pretty hard to mess up sheet pan cooking. Just keep an eye to make sure nothing burns, but other than that the temperatures and times are all super flexible."

Prep times are surprisingly low for dishes that taste as if they took hours to cook. And the ingredient combinations are endless. Almost any vegetable tastes better when roasted, but cruciferous (like broccoli and cauliflower) and root (like potatoes and squash) varieties benefit especially from the high heat. Different kinds of fish, pork tenderloins and almost every part of the chicken are sheet pan-friendly protein options.

Gilbert's go-tos ("when I can't think of anything to make and when I really haven't gone to the grocery store") are the Quick Chicken and Baby Broccoli With Spicy Peanut Sauce and Fancy Tuna Melts recipes from her book. I was immediately drawn to the beauty and fresh, seasonal ingredients of her Roasted Beet and Orange Salad With Pistachios and Feta, a recipe I tweaked slightly from the book to get even more roasting action in.

And the featured Potato-Kale Hash With Eggs recipe from Eating Well magazine saved my growling stomach one Monday night, when work ran late and it was 8 o'clock before I stared into my hodgepodge fridge desperate for something I could assemble as soon as possible. Thirty minutes later, I pulled a sizzling dinner from the oven. The most stressful part of the whole process? Realizing there wouldn't be any leftovers.

Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

   
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