Sheet pan meal ideas: These 3 recipes are perfect for getting a fast, balanced meal on the dinner table
Sheet pan enthusiasts share recipes for one-pan dinners, plus a simple formula for inventing your own.
Sheet pan meals are an easy, fast way to get a hot meal on the table that isn't bland or boring. They're the simplest way to get a balanced meal with a main dish and a couple of sides cooked quickly. Plus, they're good for you.
"Sheet pan dinners are a favorite in my house and with many of my clients," says chef and nutritionist Rima Kleiner. "It's so easy to make sheet pan dinners nutritious by focusing on nutrient-rich vegetables and protein along with some heart-healthy fat."
Some sheet pan enthusiasts follow recipes, while others follow a formula to create meals on the fly. Some use sheet pans for meal prep, reserving the fruits of their labor for lunches or breakfast. Others keep weeknights simple by making one-pan dinners. There's no one right approach to creating these quick, tasty and nutritious meals so everyone can find a combination that works for them. Plus, they store well so you can cook once and eat for a week.
What is a sheet pan meal?
Any meal cooked on a single baking sheet is a sheet pan meal. Inez Stanway, who frequently makes sheet pan meals for her sons, says they usually "consist of a protein, a vegetable and a starch."
"For example," Stanway tells Yahoo Life, "you could cook chicken, broccoli and potatoes on a single baking sheet."
Melissa Logan, a dietician at Weis Markets, explains "all ingredients go right on the same sheet pan, to be baked at the same temperature for the same length of time."
Even if you don't realize it, you've probably eaten a sheet pan meal. Former restaurant owner Paul Kushner says "almost every kitchen is preparing a form of sheet pan meal for customers because it's just efficient food prep."
What makes sheet pan meals so great?
Sheet pan devotees love this method of cooking because it's easy and versatile. "Clean-up is a breeze, it's an easy way to clear out the fridge, most sheet pan meals make four portions and they usually cook in less than 45 minutes," says Julia Chebotar, a chef.
Moreover, Stanway explains, if a sheet pan recipe looks good, it's simple to make substitutions to suit your tastes. "If you don't like chicken, you could substitute it for another protein," she says. "Or, if you prefer a different type of vegetable, you could swap out the broccoli for something else. There are endless possibilities."
Another reason sheet pan meals are so great? Clean up is easy since you only use one pan for cooking. Many sheet pan aficionados make clean-up even easier by using a non-stick pan or lining their pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Can you prep sheet pan meals in advance?
"My biggest tip to really maximize the benefits of the sheet pan meal is to do some prep work ahead of time," says Mariana Thomas, "no matter what you're making."
"Chop those potatoes, trim that asparagus or marinate the salmon," she says, adding that completing this prep work means she can avoid "hangry meltdowns" from her kids by quickly throwing a prepped sheet pan in the oven on busy nights, getting a hot meal on the table in about half an hour … with virtually no cleanup.
Want to skip even more prep? Kleiner says "bagged baby carrots and pre-cut vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, sweet potato and peppers work great in sheet pan meals."
Can you scale sheet pan recipes?
Part of the appeal of sheet pan recipes is they can easily be adjusted to make a meal for one or many. Use a quarter sheet pan to make a meal for one or two people or a half sheet for a family of four. Babb cautions you shouldn't try to squeeze too much food onto a smaller pan. "Give your food enough space to cook without overcrowding your pan," she says. "You want delicious, roasted food, not steamed mush."
It's also easy to double recipes to prepare meals for a crowd or to make meals last all week by cooking two sheets side-by-side. And, it's possible to make two (or more) different sheet pan meals at once, as long as the ingredients have similar cooking times.
Can you store sheet pan meals?
If you don't have 30 minutes to spare to wait for sheet pan meals to cook, don't worry. Doubling sheet pan meals is a great way to cook once and eat throughout the week, although some keep better than others. Chef Michael Sanguinetti says the best type of sheet pan meals to make for later "are fully cooked land proteins such as chicken, pork or beef."
"Root or cruciferous [vegetables] will last in the fridge for seven days," he says. Sanguinetti also suggests letting a sheet pan meal you plan to store for later consumption cool on the countertop before putting it in the refrigerator or freezer.
How to make sheet pan meals
Recipe creator Sara Bachmann thinks you don't need a recipe to make a great sheet pan meal. Instead, she suggests following this formula: "Select a protein, potato and two vegetables and toss them in olive oil and your favorite seasonings before roasting."
Some proteins she suggests are tofu chunks, chicken, salmon or beef chunks. For potatoes, Bachmann uses russet, sweet or small red potatoes in the form of full baked potatoes, cut potato cubes or fries. For vegetables, her favorite options include carrots, green beans, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, peppers or Brussels sprouts.
Recipe creator Aubrey Babb says the secret to "perfect sheet pan dinners is to pair a protein with vegetables that have similar cook times."
"You don't want to end up with perfectly tender and juicy chicken and burned veggies," she warns.
Kusher suggests ensuring all ingredients are cut to roughly the same size to try to equalize cooking. If that's not possible, Babb recommends adding the food in stages, starting with a protein that may take longer to cook then adding pre-chopped vegetables mid-way through. A good guideline is to cook meals prepared this way at 450 F for 40 minutes.
How to elevate sheet pan meals
Sanguinetti doesn't think all sheet pan meals need to be simple. He suggests using the pan juices to make a vinaigrette, using the broil feature of your oven to add texture and flavor to the meal and cooking seasonally to ensure you are using the best and freshest ingredients. Chef Kai Chase suggests "adding a bunch of fresh herbs, spinach, arugula, cilantro, microgreens or a generous squeeze of citrus [to the sheet pan] after taking it out of the oven."
This simple step can "upgrade the flavor and presentation of your sheet pan recipe," she says.
Once the meal is finished cooking, nutritionist Isya Zyair recommends drizzling a mix of vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, salt, pepper and olive oil on top. She also adds some garlic cloves to her sheet pan meals for extra flavor.
Looking for sheet pan meal ideas? Try one of these three simple recipes for your next weeknight dinner.
Sheet Pan Salmon and Veggie
Courtesy of Aubrey Babb, Aubrey's Kitchen
2 pounds salmon, cut into 4 to 8-ounce filets
1½ cup potatoes, russet, yellow, red or sweet
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup red or yellow peppers (sliced)
½ cup cherry tomatoes
½ cup onions (sliced), sweet or red
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon seasoning blend of choice
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
2. Place diced potatoes evenly on sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning of choice.
3. Cook potatoes at 425 F for 5-6 minutes.
4. Remove from oven and push potatoes to the side of the pan. Add salmon and veggies of choice to sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning of choice.
5. Cook at 425 F for 15-17 minutes or until salmon reaches an internal temperature of 145 F.
Sheet Pan Cuban Mojo Chicken and Fingerling Potatoes
Courtesy of chef Kai Chase
Garlic mojo marinade:
1 1⁄2 cups orange juice
1⁄2 cup lime juice
1⁄2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons oregano, dried
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
8 pieces bone-in, skin-on chicken
1 large white onion, sliced into rings
Salt and pepper
1 pound fingerling potatoes, sliced in half (lengthwise)
Salt and pepper
1. In a mixing bowl combine all of the mojo ingredients and whisk together. Set aside.
2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the marinade and using your hands, toss to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 4 hours or overnight.
3. Preheat the oven to 425 F. On a cutting board, slice onion into rings. Add the potatoes and onion to a medium mixing bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil and lightly salt and pepper.
4. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place the chicken skin side up on the baking sheet. Drizzle the marinade over the chicken and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
5. Open the oven and add the potatoes and onions around the sides and nestled in between the chicken. Cook for an additional 20-25 minutes. Chicken will be cooked, crisp and flavorful and the potatoes will be tender and fork-friendly. Garnish with orange and lime wheels.
Mediterranean-Inspired Pistachio-Crusted Sheet Pan Salmon
Courtesy of nutritionist Rania Batayneh
6 six-ounce skinless salmon filets, wild if you prefer
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted, chopped in half
12 ounces (canned) whole artichoke hearts in water, drained and halved lengthwise
1/2 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3 tablespoons capers
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup pistachios, roasted and salted, no shells, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Wash and pat dry the salmon filets.
3. Place salmon filets on parchment paper and season with salt and ground black pepper.
4. Squeeze the juice from the lemon onto the salmon.
5. Place remaining ingredients arranged around the salmon.
6. Bake for 15 minutes.
7. Remove pan from oven and spread ground pistachios on top of the salmon fillets, coating evenly.
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